Otomi Embroidery Is for Me

 image otomi pillow bed

Long, long ago a cute couple got married.  Their wedding was small, simple and lovely and 100% DIY.  And yes, I am talking about my nuptials with my husband Steve 11 years ago.  I didn’t want a traditional wedding at all. I designed and styled the entire beautiful thing using a colorful Indian theme.  The first big decision we made was to create a great invitation with supplies we already had on hand.  The end result was a hand-embossed white invitation.
Letterpress invites would have been wonderful, but instead, I created a template out of cardboard and rubbed the design into the paper.  We chose an image of two Indian love birds (actually a peacock and peahen).

image wedding invitation

 I guess I need to do a post about our wedding, because it was beautiful and there is a lot to tell about it from a design point of view.  But this post is about something that happened after the wedding… the honeymoon.

image sunrise cabo san lucas mexico honeymood

image honeymoon selfie newlyweds cabo san lucas mexicoWe were really lucky to receive as a wedding gift, a place to stay in Cabo San Lucas for a week.  We used mileage points and flew away to Mexico.  As soon as we pulled up at our hotel I fell in love.  On the benches at the entrance of the hotel were huge, amazing embroidered pillows of animal and plant designs.  What I didn’t know then is that they were examples of a very old Central-Mexican craft called Otomi.  The embroidered images are said to be based on images from cave paintings.

Usually a natural colored cotton fabric is covered with freehand drawings and the embroidery is created by using a satin stitch over the drawings.  The animals (deer, birds, armadillos…) and plants depicted are usually seen in profile. Stitched in beautiful bright colors, they are stunning.

Since Mexico is so inexpensive we were able to stay within our travel budget, and purchase some gifts for people.  The one thing I really wanted as a souvenir for myself was a bunch of Otomi embroidery pillows.  One day we went to the lovely town of San Jose del Cabo to shop, and I was really bummed out when we discovered that Otomi was actually quite expensive.  I had imagined getting many sham sized pillow covers for our apartment.  After lots of contemplation we splurged and bought ONE 12″ x 16″ embroidered piece of fabric showing Mexican love birds, reminiscent of our wedding invitations.

That lovely Otomi embroidery piece sat stored in a bin with antique lace and linens that came from my grandparents’ house for 11.5 years (we moved that bin twice).  So, today the big news is that I rediscovered it, picked a fabric for the backing (from my famous fabric stash) and had my mom create a pillow cover.  We finally have it on our bed.  I would still love to have more Otomi, but after so long I am good with our little purple love birds.

image otomi pillow bed home decor



You can buy some amazing Otomi pillows like those pictured below, from The Little Market.


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Thrift Store Secret: Down/Feather Pillow Inserts

image down feather pillow inserts
I think throw pillows look great with goose down/feather inserts.  The poofy-ness and the squishy-ness scream luxury.  On the other hand, fiberfill inserts fall kind of flat but they are very affordable and readily available. But I need down/feather inserts for the throw pillows in my house and I have figured out a way to find them for less than $5 a piece!  They aren’t that expensive, but I see no need to buy new when I can reuse and save money at the same time while getting the look I love.

Even though the pillow racks at thrift stores might give you the willies, (you know, dust, mildew, etc.) I have learned over the years not to be afraid of thrift store throw pillows.  You just need to be brave and give those dusty old pillows a little squeeze.  You can easily identify a down/feather insert vs. fiberfill.  When you find a pillow with a squishy-feather filled feel, buy it!

image pillow inserts down feather

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Selling The Bungalow We Used to Call Home

We lived in our old house, a Chicago bungalow, from 2006-2013.  Over those 7 years we did countless projects including updating the kitchen and remodeling the bathroom.  When Harper was born we changed Trixie’s nursery into a room for them to share.

Here are pictures from 2013 when we were putting our house on the market in preparation to move to our current home.  Since we were getting the house ready to sell, we swapped our living room and dining room to their original and intended layout.  You can see our unorthodox set up in The Bungalow We Used to Call Home.

2006 was the height of the real estate bubble, and when we were selling in 2013, it certainly hadn’t recovered anywhere close to the 2006 levels (you can read all about that in my DesignMom interview), but even in that sluggish environment, our house was under contact within a week of putting it on the market!

Last week I posted some very striking before & after photos of the old bungalow.

Also check out the posts about our new house:


Selling the Bungalow


Living Room

image living room arts & crafts bungalow

The brick fireplace-surround in the living room was painted brick red when we moved in.  I painted it ivory to lighten up the space.

image living room arts & crafts bungalow

So many wonderful, original old windows, we had them all restored rather than replaced!

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You’ve Gotta Be Crewel to Be Kind

When I am thrift shopping I always look for antique and vintage things that are handmade.  Generally, the quality and materials are better than anything you can buy new.  Knit sweaters and mittens, embroidered pillows, crocheted afghans, needlepoint and crewel work and more.  When I was growing up my mom was always working on some such project, in between making clothes, and I know the tremendous amount of time that is involved in each creation.  It is more time than I am willing to put into any one craft but I truly appreciate every one-of-a-kind work-of-art I find.

The other day I found two pieces of groovy 70s Crewel work, which is embroidery with a wool yarn.  They looked very sad lying there along among the teddy bear posters and framed country scenes, they had to be saved.  I am sure both pieces were made by the same person because of the colors and the very unconventional way they were mounted and framed.

image crewel work picture mushroomsThe first one, seen on the left here, is a small piece with mushrooms, a bee and a snail = 1970s cute.  It cost 49 cents.

Once I got it out of the “frame” and removed the layers of ancient tape and staples, I plunged it into cold water to clean off decades of dust.  Then all it needed with a good pressing with some steam to look super crisp and like new.

A simple white frame was the perfect way to keep it looking modern.  I got an IKEA frame from my stash (I always grab imperfect frames at IKEA from their “seconds” area) and it looks great, as you can see below.  It will be a great addition to the playroom walls.

image crewel work picture mushrooms

The second piece will take a lot more work to get it rehabilitated, more on that soon.



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The Bungalow We Used to Call Home – Before & After

We were thrilled to find our first house in Berwyn, Illinois, 10 miles from downtown Chicago and on the commuter train line.  After looking for an entire year (thanks to our patient realtor Chris) we found a gem – a Chicago Bungalow with all of its original woodwork and character.  We were only the third owners of this 100-year-old home. It needed a lot of work: repair on the stucco exterior, electrical rewiring, insulation, window restoration, storms and screens, a new chimney, a roof, as well as cosmetic work throughout.  Over the seven years we lived there, we attacked all of those updates as well as remodeling the bathroom, updating the kitchen, adding a fence and designing gardens around the entire property.

(Please excuse the not-so-good quality of the photos) 

Front Porch


image bungalow chicago front porch

The house was painted white with wedgewood blue trim.  I really wanted to embrace the natural, neutral colors that were popular in the Arts and Crafts movement.  Painting windows a dark color on a light colored house always gives it a real punch.  For the trim I chose an earthy khaki color.  We replaced the house numbers with ceramic tiles from Rejuvenation Hardware.

The porch swing belonged to my grandparents. I remember my grandpa taking it off of its frame in the yard and putting in the garage when it rained.  I would always ask him why he didn’t just leave it out in the rain and he would say that you need to take care of things if you want them to last.  I staked a claim on that swing long ago.


chicago bungalow front porch

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The F Mugs

image mug monogram

If you haven’t learned already, I am a huge fan of thrift store shopping.  A couple of weeks ago I was at a local Salvation Army store with Harper looking for goodies.  I was excited when I stumbled upon 3 mugs with my initial on it – WAIT, that’s not my initial, mine is an E not an F.  Hmmm, what to do.  They weren’t free, at 25 cents each I figured I could take the plunge and see what I could do with them because I really wanted to sip some French Roast out of those babies.

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The Bungalow We Used to Call Home

We moved into our first home in 2006.  It was a wild ride.  I was almost nine months pregnant and my water broke the morning after our move-in day. We had had a rough night sleeping on a slowly deflating air mattress in our mostly-empty old apartment.  Trixie came 3 weeks early.  I was looking forward to those weeks to do some unpacking, but instead we spent 5 days in the hospital and then brought home a gorgeous, healthy baby girl to our new house filled with boxes.
Our first night in our first ever house was our first night home with a baby!  My mom and a few other family members worked hard unpacking the necessities when they weren’t with us in the hospital.  Needless to say, most of those boxes stayed packed for a long time.  Some of them are still packed in our current basement – no joke.

About 2.5 years later, in 2008, I introduced a new product line of cashmere baby items to my business Kistner Supply.  As part of promoting the new line I worked with Gabby Blair at DesignMom.com to do a home tour for Cookie Magazine.  These shots are from that 2008 tour and interview.

Our house was a typical 2.5 bedroom/1 bath 1000 square foot Chicago bungalow.  Like many bungalows,

image floor planyou enter into a small foyer, then into the living room and you walk back through the dining room to get to the kitchen.  The entrance to the bedrooms and bath are through the dining room.

In our home I decided to switch the living and dining rooms so that the main living space wasn’t all the way in the front of the house.  The end result was a larger space that didn’t have to work around an entry and fireplace, and that was closer to the bedrooms and an eat-in kitchen.  When we put the house up for sale in 2013 I switched them back to the traditional layout.

To see what the house looked like when we put it on the market stay tuned for another post coming soon.

Also coming soon is a before & after post of our old house.

And of course you can see these three tours of our current home: Before & After, Holiday Tour and The Old House We Love to Live In.

Living Room

image living room bungalow arts & crafts

We fell in love with the original woodwork in the house and the grass-paper wallpaper.

The coffee, endtables, stool and magazine rack belonged to my parents in the 1960s and the large brown chair was something my grandparent’s purchased in the 1950s (at one point it was upholstered in brown vinyl!).

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Harper gets Liberty Spikes

image boy with liberty spikes in hair

Harper’s class had a special celebration last week for the anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Monday was Fox in Socks day – the more socks the better, I think he wore three pairs and it was tough getting shoes on. Tuesday he wore green head to toe for Green Eggs & Ham day. Wednesday was dress wacky for Wacky Wednesday. Harper wore a wetsuit! Thursday was Whoville Hair Day and Friday was crazy hat day, celebrating the The Cat in the Hat. The kids loved it.

All of the boys in Harper’s class have short hair and many of them were planning to spike and color their hair.  Harper decided he wanted to spike his hair too.  Well, the boy has a lot of long and fine hair.  I tried some different products and techniques the night before and he liked the look but it wasn’t holding.  YouTube saved me.  There are so many videos on making Liberty Spikes and most of them use the same product, Got2B Glue Blasting Freeze Spray.  Steve went out that night and found it for me.  The next morning we started bright and early to get this boy spiked.

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The Old House We Love to Live In – Before & After

As soon as I saw this 150-year-old house in Charleston Illinois I knew that we could make it our own.  It was dirty, dark and unloved but had so much potential to be a happy and bright family home.  You can read more about what brought us to Charleston in my interview with Design Mom.

Don’t forget to see the posts of our home tour and our house decked out for the holidays.



image old house before

The house was white with decorative green shutters for at least 100 years.  After living here for 2 years I decided that we needed to go dark.  I love the monochromatic Colonial homes in New England, especially Massachusetts homes like The House of Seven Gables and The Orchard House that were built in the late 1600s.

In 1864 our house was originally built in the Carpenter Gothic style.  Then in 1920 the second owners added a Georgian Colonial Revival style by changing the facade. The gingerbread trim and the porch were removed and a portico with columns was added.  The bay windows in the front of the house were replaced with french doors.

I found the combination of styles confusing and think that the monochromatic, dark paint job solidified the look.  We chose Sherwin Williams color Dark Knight for the exterior with Nervy Hue for a pop of color on the door.


image, old house after

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An Old Clock Repurposed – Before & After

image clock with wood grain face

It was a sad day when this clock broke.  It was just an office clock from Target, but I loved the fake wood and the minimal  font.  Oh well.  Months ago our kittens somehow knocked it off the wall and it couldn’t be repaired.  Steve wanted to chuck it, but I wanted to save it (imagine that!).

I figured that some day, I would have something round that I would want to frame.

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