Category Archives: Home Decor

The Allez Gators Quilt

Thanks to Google, I was able to quickly find out that the French word for quilt is courtepoint. I have to admit, I’ve never ever seen or heard the word courtepoint before! Not that I have much of a working vocabulary for French anyway; my formal training in French words is limited to 2 years at Herndon High School back in the seventies…“Où est Phillipe? Il est a là piscine….”

But I have a family member who majored in French at the University of Florida. In fact, her grandfather was a French scholar and chairman of the languages department.  Owing that French words and being a gator are dear to her heart, I designed a lap quilt around those two elements.

courtepointe finie
la courtepointe est finie

The design is based on the chants they make you do when you go to a football game. “Orange!” “Blue!” “Orange!” Blue!” et cetera.  So in French it would be “L’Orange! Le Bleu!”  Not exactly rocket science here, but… we’re talking…college football. Then, I added “Allez Gators!” Get it?  The standard greeting in Gainesville, if you come across anyone who is dressed in orange and blue, no matter what the occasion, is “Go Gators!”

The stripes in the quilt were made after the manner of Edyta Sitar’s Mix ‘N Match Inspired Scrappy Quilting class from Craftsy. Fabric is cut into strips, then pieced together, then cut into the desired shapes: in this quilt, the shapes were cut from the Rick-rack template on an Accuquilt Go! Big cutting machine. And the green gator was just a freehand sketch.

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strips into stripes, the orange version

Sitar has a recommended mix for this type of assembly, with 5 types of fabrics that blend well with colors, including a large print, a small print, a polka dot, a stripe,,,but I used fabrics that match up with the gator licensed collegiate fabric. Florida has a distinctive paprika-colored orange and a royal blue; you wouldn’t want to end up with, say, a Tennessee orange which has more yellow, or the Auburn orange and blue, which is burnt orange and navy blue. Totally different orange and blue. Oh, yes, there’s more to college football rivalry than prowess on the field, you have to get the true colors right. There’s room for some creativity, but one must uphold the standards, as set forth here.

Ah, for the lettering…I could have used one of the cool Rivermill machine embroidery appliqué templates, but the problem there, is getting the individual letters sewn onto the quilt top one by one, with a pleasing amount of space in between each letter. If you’ve ever done calligraphy, using a Speedball pen and ink guidelines book, you’ll recall that every letter has a standard dimension, and the spaces between the letters are not the same. When you are appliquéing letters on a background fabric using machine embroidery, you’d have to know the exact dimensions of each letter and how far apart to space them.  I thought it would be easier to just draw out the letters, then attach Wunder-under to the back of the lettering and glue it onto the fabric before satin-stitching around the edges. Easier said than done! Wunder-under consists of a piece of paper that has glue on both sides, one side having an additional backing paper. The idea is to iron it on to a piece of fabric, then peel off the backing, exposing the glue on the other side, then flipping the appliqué over and ironing that side down to another fabric. But to use that “easy” procedure, you’d have to draw the word backwards on to the Wonder-under first, which is something that the left-brained aspect of me, was unable to pull off.

Wunder-under back jenyjenny
ironing Wunder-under to the back of a fabric

So what I ended up doing, was sketching the word on the back of the Wunder-under, the crinkly, textured side that has the first application of glue to be ironed on, then ironing it onto the wrong side of the fabric, then cutting out around the sketched letters with embroidery scissors and an X-acto knife, then peeling off the backing of the Wunder-under and ironing it down to the quilt top.

After all the appliqué pieces were backed with the adhesive sheets and ironed onto the quilt top, I stitched around them with zig-zag or satin stitching to anchor them down. Then I starched both top and backing (both fabrics being white cotton), and quilted them together in random stipple stitching with orange thread,  with a layer of poly-cotton batting in between. I sent off for some pre-wound orange bobbins on Amazon from a dealer who had originally bought them from Superior Threads, and I had no trouble with tension. Then I squared up the edges and applied a binding strip 2 1/4 inches wide, also cut with an Accuquilt die. I bet it would have looked great with rick-rack shaped edges, but I was chasing a deadline at this point, so straight edges it was.

Happy holidays, and though they didn’t even get a bowl game this year,  Go Gators!

Simple Holiday Sewing with Buzzkill Fears and Trepidations

Which is better, cotton or polyester?

It used to be cotton all the way, however, there are so many cool polyester fabrics, it would be a shame to miss out on them. Am I right?

The idea for this Santa blanket came from looking through my fabric stash. The stash includes a big box of polar fleece, minky, minky dot and velour-type fabric remnants, mostly polyester or cotton-poly blends. Our local JoAnn store will roll up some fabric remnants for sale at 50% (sometimes 75%) off.

Most apparel remnants are less than a yard, but most Home-Dec items, including blanket-type material, can be a yard or more. I figure that one yard of fabric 50 to 60 inches wide is a good size for a lap quilt or a baby blanket. If less than .8 of a yard, it would look better pieced with some other fabric.

The main part of this Santa blanket is a high-pile red minky that’s velvety soft on both sides. I think it’s the ideal fabric for a soft blanket. The edges are trimmed with thick bands of white minky dot fabric sewn on right-side edge to back edge of blanket, folded over and sewn down, which are supposed to be reminiscent of the trim on Santa’s hat and suit.

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Santa blanket

The next is a takeoff on the Santa blanket, except the center part is pieced and backed. The top is made of 3 pieces of flannel (flannel is a cotton fabric) in red, black and white. The top was sewn, right sides together at two edges, to a piece of red minky dot fabric (polyester). Actually, the back is two pieces; I had to add a strip because the back wasn’t quite big enough. The big fabric cylinder was then turned inside-out. Then two wide strips of black minky dot fabric were sewn on the two ends with still-raw edges, folded over and sewn down, à la Santa blanket above.

I wasn’t very happy with the way it looked constuction-wise, so I decided this one is going to be kept on our couch, ain’t nobady’s business if I do. If I decided to give this as a gift, I probably would have put a layer of polyester batting in the center and quilted it together.

If not tacked together in the center (which this one isn’t), these layers of fabric will probably crackle with electricity when you shake out the blanket. I always worry about stuff like that. For instance, you see along the selvage, on really cute children’s pattern flannel and other fabrics, the buzz-kill warning: Not to be used for children’s sleepwear.

You can google this and find that there are several points of view: that some of these fabrics could catch fire easily. But then, commercial pajamas for kids have chemicals in them to serve as flame-retardants to the fabric in case it does catch on fire. I can remember my kids wearing sleepers that, when they’d been washed about a zillion times, really did crackle and spark with static electricity when they were romping around in them. Wonder if the flame-retardant chemicals washed out after a while? Wonder if the chemicals contributed to eczema? Wonder if shaking out these blankets full of static electricity could cause a fire?

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take off on Santa blanket

And while we’re on the subject of polyester fabrics, there’s a new contraindication going around: shellfish are eating little pieces of plastic that they find in their natural habitats, which are in turn passed on to us at the dining table. Researchers have found that one source of the tiny plastic particles in seafood is run-off water in which polyester clothes are washed. Here’s one article.

We could wall ourselves off from all polyester and acrylic contamination: wear only organic fibers, eat only organic foods, wash with soap that doesn’t contain exfoliating pellets of man-made whatever.  Or maybe it’s too late for that? Maybe it’s a step in the ultimate direction of The Singularity, where mankind becomes one with machine…it starts with our food sources ingesting plastic, and then little by little, those plastic components creep into our metabolisms, our anatomies, our selves?

I think I like cotton better.


Simplifying Holiday Decor

Decorating for the holidays: I’m all for simplifying!

Last year, the kittens were less than a year old at Christmas, and we knew that if we brought an 8- or 10-foot tree into the house, it would get crazy in here. This year, Ponyboy has beefed up to about 16 lbs and when the three cats go racing around the living, dining room, and kitchen, he can be a formidable projectile.  So we don’t think we’re ready to go back to a real tree, and got the plywood cat-loving tree we made previously, down from the attic.

The coffee table needed some bright color…lucky for me, I had a cache of remnants that would fit the bill.

I started out with a whiteish piece of fabric, which I thought might work for a center square to machine embroider something on. I ended up giving this Urban Threads design a go: it’s a dirigible-driven sleigh for a steam-punk Santa. Then I squared up the fabric to the design, trimming the block to about 9 inches.

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Santa’s dirigible, an Urban Threads design

Of all the suitable remnants I had lying around in the hoard, I chose a bright red glitter cotton one, a polyester plaid shot through with gold metallic threads, and a polyester shiny metallic green fabric with diamond-patterned raised stitching.

For the lining or backing…I thought something gold would be good–preferably something I had in the stash that was already wide enough so I wouldn’t have to piece it. I brought out several…

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gold fabric for backing
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or maybe one of these?







Jackpot, of course I picked the one that was wide enough. I pinned it, right sides together, to the pieced and stitched top, sewed around the perimeter, leaving a fist-size opening, then turned the inside out and pressed the edges. Then I stitched around the edge of the finished square.

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this was the backing we ended up with
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coffee table cover being snagged by cat
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under the cat-proof tree

On the wall above the mantel in back, is what Skip calls…the Family “Palm” Tree.




Most Lame Halloween Ever

It’s even more depressing to talk about it.

We didn’t even have one trick or treater come to the door.

And I hurt from the knuckles up from my three-hour visit to the dentist to get prepped for a crown.

So the thought of “more candy for me” doesn’t even sound good.

I tried to “friend” my dentist on Facebook a couple of years ago. She was like “hell, no.”

Because I am the worst patient ever. I woke up this morning (All Saints Day, la la!) with crumbles of that rubbery material they use to make impressions of your teeth, two trays of which I barfed up onto the reclining chair of doom, stuck in my hair. Ew.

But here are some pics that capture the spirit of the holiday, at best…

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neighborhood hi-jinks
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Who are the people in your neighborhood? Ghouls.
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Our Sheenah and the new 99 cent Publix shopping bags
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in your space decorations
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open front door, see butt of 12-ft tall scary cat

Thanks to Danielle for the last two pics of their decorations, they were so funny I had to share them. The skull, with its rotating eyeballs, is maniacal!

Orange and Blue Solution to a Bigheaded Problem

College football got off to a slow start this year, thanks to hurricane season showing out at the same time. But a few of the games Florida has played so far, we managed to win! Amazing, considering…considering…well, you know about the things everyone is saying about the Gators.

Curiously, one armchair quarterback we know (who shall remain nameless) sustained an injury in the armchair region that we noticed about the time of the Tennessee game.  Not sure if it was before or after the fracas* during that legendary Hail Mary play in the last few seconds of the game.

chair headrest injury

But the large cranium (which is full of knowledge, I admit) that usually resides on the breach of leather seen above, sure seemed to expand with happiness at the outcome of the next game!

We had to do something because a bad case of the bighead was making a hole in the furniture around here.  For a craft project, I could have made a doily to drape over the chair…but that would make us look like old people who sit in the house all the time watching TV with their cats….Hey, wait a minute…

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Get down Sheenah! You don’t want to root for those wild cats!

But also, crocheting a doily takes time. I wanted something quick, that would be ready by game time next week. Which is…today!

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gator-themed head rest covers

I used cotton batting, one thin layer, sandwiched between two layers of blue cotton fabric, and quilted together with Superior Threads’ New Brytes in a day-glo orange color. This thread is thicker than the average thread, #30 3-ply, it says on the label, which I thought might be a good thing. But when I ran a bobbin, it started rolling rough-shod onto the spool, which I know from experience, is not a good start.

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unevenly-wound bobbin

I decided to do free-motion machine quilting, since they were little projects. It’s been such a long time since I’ve done machine quilting, I had to live through a learning curve.

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kill me now, because of this ugly stitching on the underside


When this happens, I go through all the possible reasons for it: rethread the top thread, check the bobbin tension, wind a new bobbin, install a new needle, but  ultimately, I just have to turn off the machine, then turn it back on.

Ironically, I had recently read an article by Superior Threads about tension. The graphic included in the article was very informative, but ultimately, turning the machine off, then back on, worked.

After many rippings and re-doing of the quilting, I squared up the corners and added shiny orange blanket binding. The iron-on decals were purchased. Yes, I did break a few needles while quilting through the thick decal patches. The teensy quilts  are attached to the backs of the La-Z-Boy chair head rests with Velcro tape from the hardware store.

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woo hoo! keep that winning streak going!





* Fracas is a funny word. I can only picture it being uttered by a big, burly hard-boiled detective in a crime novel. The American pronunciation rhymes with “rake us.” But, I was watching something British on TV, when I heard them say “fracas” in British, which is pronounced “frah-cah.” Which rhymes with ha, ha!

Interdependence on Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!

Been busy and my little projects are humble! But I’ve had other things to do.

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new old bedspread

This red satin (polyester) comforter was old and the batting inside had gotten all bunched up. I was going to throw it away, but the top of it was really a very savory huge piece of fabric. The bottom layer was a nasty old threadbare rag covered with fabric pills; if the skin of my foot ever accidentally touched the backing during the night, I would wake up recoiling in disgust. (My feet are very sensitive to substandard fabric!)

While shopping at JoAnn’s, I spotted a bolt of that extra-wide (108″) fabric that can be used as backings for large quilts, without having a seam.  So I slashed the quasimodo comforter, removed the hump of bunched up batting and the nasty backing, and replaced both with something new.  I thought of my grandmother, who told me that when she was young (in the Great Depression) they would cut the worn bedsheets down the middle and then re-sew them with the outer sides now seamed together in the middle. Waste not, want not!

cotton backing jenny skip
with new cotton backing

For quilting, I loaded it up on the king-size Grace frame, and I mostly traced over the embroidery on the satin top, and experimented a little with the Qnique.  I didn’t care about making it perfect.

I still haven’t mastered getting the bobbin tension right with the Qnique.

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quilted back of patriotic table runner

If you look closely at the quilted back of this table runner, you can see the ugly bobbin stitches.

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flag and eagle machine embroidery from Embroidery Library
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finished table runner project

This Fourth of July table runner was made from a cute little remnant, a remnant piece of fusible fleece for batting, and a collection of red, white and blue remnants die cut into tumbler shapes with an Accuquilt template. Binding is Wright’s double fold bias tape.

Are you watching fireworks tonight? Be safe.


Reverse Engineering a Springtime Sewing Project

Last week was our Spring Break and we did a whole lot of nothing.

Not complaining,,,not exactly. Our little “first world” problems are not really problems, but choices. We did a lot of householder-type things. And we helped and connected with some other people in our sphere of acknowledgement, ha ha, our little universe. How do you decide if a project is worthy of your time, talent, and trouble?

One thing I took on was to fix some pillows at the request of someone in my circle who takes care of an elderly fellow.

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needlework pillows, before


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underside, wool fabric

Someone in the old man’s life had done a marvelous job of creating the needlepoint canvases on these beauties, which now showed a faded frog (?) on a toadstool in the rain and a green polka-dotted slug (?) under a cascade of spring flowers. The pillows themselves looked to be handmade out of a sumptuous yellow wool fabric. But apparently a dog had used them for sport, and the stuffing was popping out of a number of unsightly shreds.

The first step was to undo. The manual equivalent of the “undo” link was to rip out all the seams so that the pillow pieces were left intact,

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Undoing the stitching to salvage the needlepoint (to the left is the new fabric)

to be used as patterns for the replacement fabric. It turned out to be the first real workout I had with the lovely seam ripper Skip made for me, by turning it on the lathe (see kit here).

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seam ripper
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using the old pieces as a pattern

I also saved the cording that was inside the piping edges, two strips of piping for each pillow. The new fabric was a piece of cotton (as far as I know) I had in the stash.

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creating new piping with old cording

The machine has a special foot that I love to use when applying mini-piping, the pre-packaged kind made by Wright’s, but that little groove was not going to work with this larger cording.  So I used the narrow zipper foot, an attachment that is handy for a lot of tasks.

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narrow zipper foot

Next, I needed to sew the piping onto the new pillow backs, and then onto the side panels.

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attaching a side panel

On the first pillow, I went ahead and attached the top piping to the side panel, then sewed the needlepoint panel on 3 sides to the sandwich of piping and side panel. The fourth side would be hand-stitched after the fabric was turned inside out and stuffed with the pillow form. On the second pillow, I sewed the piping directly to the needlepoint panel, then sewed the piped needlepoint piece onto the side panel: I believe this is how the pillow was originally made because I could see the hand-stitching that closed the opening in between piping and panel, after the pillow had been turned inside out and stuffed.

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hand-stitching the opening between the piping and side panel
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turned, stuffed, and ready to be hand-stitched

On the pillow in the forefront above, I hand-stitched directly to the needlepoint canvas, which I didn’t really feel good about, because the machine-stitched one behind it will probably hold up better. I reused the original down pillows, which were scrunched-up a lot inside the smaller pillow casings. But apparently that’s how the owner liked them and they’re very cushiony.

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Eucalan sponge bath

The needlepoint panels were a little faded and soiled-looking, but I didn’t know if I should try to wash them. I finally went to the yarn store and procured a bottle of Eucalan, a highly recommended no-rinse washing preparation for wool and other delicate fabrics. As the brand name hints, it’s made from eucalyptus oil and lanolin. The lady at Yarn Works cautioned that the article shouldn’t be soaked in a liquid because that would remove the sizing from the needlepoint canvas. So I mixed about a spoonful in a bowl of warm water and dabbed a clean wash cloth in it, then wrung it out and gently rubbed it over the smudgy areas of the needlepoint. It didn’t come out looking brand-new; actually I can’t tell any difference in the color or brightness, but after it dried it smelled a little better than before.

I wonder what the story was behind those little pillows–were they made by his wife, who has been gone for a few years now? Or were they made by another family  member or a cherished friend? I hope they bring to mind a little spring-time cheer!





Kitchen Redo with Stone and Wood


Recently my wife “suggested” that it might be time to upgrade our countertops from 25 year old grey Formica to granite.

old Formica countertops

So off to the big box store to look at granite samples.  Way too many choices!! But we found a sample we liked so we pulled out the check book and started what turned out to be a very efficient process, unlike any I have ever experienced.  Soon after selecting the sample, someone showed up to develop a template for cutting the granite.  A week or so later we got an email inviting us to go to Tallahassee to inspect our granite slabs. In lieu of making the trip we asked for photos and got a gallery of shots showing us what our slabs looked like. Once we approved the slabs, we soon got a call to schedule the installation. Two very experienced installers showed up, removed the old countertops in a manner so as to not damage them, so they could be recycled to a friend’s home needing new countertops, and installed our new countertops and cleaned up before leaving for home.  The next day a plumber showed up to reinstall the kitchen sink.

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Same sink

This is when I got the bright idea to “upgrade” the kitchen cabinets by adding some wood trim to the cabinet doors.  The cabinets, despite their age, are in great shape.

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new counters, same old plain cabinets

I picked out some red oak from the shop and milled out a piece about 3/16 inches thick, 1 ½ inches wide and long enough to fit on a cabinet door.  I then picked out a couple stains which I thought might match some colors in the new countertops and passed this by my wife.

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some of the various woods and finishes

She picked the golden oak stain as applied to the red oak, two applications followed by a clear coat.  After the selection of the stain, I showed my wife a selection of cabinet handles in the Lee Valley catalog.  A copper and bronze handle seemed to be the best selection for working with the wood, countertops and existing cabinet finish.  The wood strips would be applied to the opening edge of each cabinet door as an accent to the cabinets linking them to the colors in the granite.

After the handles arrived it was time to get to the wood working. Pieces of red oak were cut and milled to size, sanded and finished with stain. The plan was to fasten the handles to the wood strips and then fasten the wood strips to the doors.  Of course the screws which came with the handles were too long, made for ¾ inch thick doors and not 3/16 inch thick trim.  Off to Ace Hardware, where I found 8x32x1/2 inch machine screws to fasten the handles.  Since the wood strips were to be fastened to the cabinet doors, the screw heads had to be recessed in the wood trim.  I used a Kreg cabinet jig to drill the mounting holes in the wood trim for the handles.  Using a Forstner bit set to drill to a depth approximately equal to the screw head thickness, I lined up the mounting holes with the Forstner bit and drilled a countersink for the screw heads.

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attaching handles to wood strip

After mounting all the handles, it was time to start applying these to the doors.  I marked and drilled two holes on each door to allow screws to be inserted from the back of the door into the wood trim. I then applied thick CA glue to the back of the trim, sprayed the door with accelerator and applied the wood with clamps. When the glue had set, I drove screws from the back side of the door to further secure the wood trim.

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wood accents with handles

We were both happy with the outcome.  Now, on to the kitchen drawers, wood trim on the top edge of the drawer fronts with a matching bronze/copper knob.

Here’s a You-tube of the whole process so far:


Round and Round with Small Window Covers

I got this little circle-making attachment in an after-holiday sale at A-1 Sewing, our local Husqvarna Viking store, and I’ve been trying to get some projects going, so I can make use of it.

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circle-sewing attachment

First off,  I used it to decorate some window coverings for a superadobe building. (If you want to see more about this particular building, go to this PlenitudPR website under the heading “Bio-construction.”)

window covers jenny skip
window coverings

You may see this photo and think, “But that looks like a pillow, not a curtain!” True! The proprietors (who happen to be very dear to us) mentioned that their superadobe house could sure use some window coverings, that the windows to be covered were like portholes, about 12 inches in diameter and some were more oval-shaped than round.

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some windows in the super adobe house

They were currently using pillows to stuff in the windows. We came up with some options that did not work, then a few that were more useable.

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window cover attempt #1

This was the first attempt: it looked like a big circular potholder. I used white blackout fabric for one side, batting in the middle, and fabric on the other side, and edged it with double-fold bias binding, with a little strap for pulling it out. Unfortunately, you can see here that it was not quite big enough to plug the hole.

For the second attempt, I tried out a new design, sketched here:

sketch window cover jenny skip
hopeful sketch

The diameter was increased to about 26 inches, the center circle was padded and sewn around, and the outer circle was supposed to slide into the cylinder of the wall thickness to be held in place. But again, this design didn’t work well, although they were able to fold it a certain way to keep it from falling out, so it was somewhat useable, see it in the next pics:

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window cover attempt #2
#2 jenny skip
window cover attempt #2 from the opposite side

The third attempt included the brown dragonfly “pillow” shape shown above. Since they were already using pillows, and that worked…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I increased the diameter to about 16 inches and added a lot more fleece padding. Since the diameter was larger than was usable for the circle-making gizmo (maximum diameter for that is 10 inches), I did snap it on anyway and sew some circular designs in the centers of the covers, to quilt the fabric and batting layers together in the middle. The attachment comes with templates to make circles, 4-petal flower shapes, or 6-petal flower shapes.

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attempt #3 with 16″ diameter

And I should be glad to mention that PlenitudPR is an organization that teaches and promotes sustainable living, so we kept that in mind and used fabric remnants for our window covers, and thus kept those leftover pieces of fabric from potentially clogging the landfill.

More about the process here:

Easy, Earthy Presents From the Back Yard

It’s the day before Christmas Eve (Christmas Eve Eve) and we decided to make a crafty Christmas present we’ve been wanting to make ever since Thanksgiving, when some of our grown children showed us how to do it and asked for dad’s help.

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Candle holder made by son

Natural-edge log tea-light candle holders were easy, earthy, and a breeze to make. We have a big pile of firewood out back, which probably won’t get burned any time soon since it’s been in the 70’s and 80’s this and the past few Decembers. And we have a pile of Yankee tea-light candles with delicious-sounding names like Christmas Thyme, Gingerbread Maple, and Christmas Cookie. I bought a bunch of them online for a friend’s son’s school band fundraiser, but you can also get a bag of tea-lights from the dollar rack at CVS pharmacy (although they may not smell as good!)

Skip explains all the steps we took to make a couple of these things, in the You-tube video:

They look good as single candle holders, completely natural with no embellishments, or grouped together and tied with a ribbon or raffia.

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candle centerpiece

Thanks for all the interest and love this past year. We wish you a very happy holiday the next few weeks, and hope for the best for each of you in the coming new year.