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Merry Christmas in July With This Easy-to-Craft Heirloom Kitchen Towel

For those of you who didn’t shudder at the title of this post, welcome and thank you for clicking through to read! Can you believe that Christmas is a mere five months away? Believe it or not, this unbearable heat-wave provides the perfect opportunity to start thinking about Christmas crafts. If you like an easy (once you learn) and inexpen$ive project that can become a future heirloom for any member of your family or posse, you have come to the right place. 

This simple kitchen towel

can be made for about $5 plus your labor, not including other supplies you might not have on hand. Not bad, but I suggest starting now so you don’t become a frustrated elf come December.


My mother’s 50-year-old kitchen towel,

Beth's Kitchen towel © The Gracious Posse

which serves as a dust cover for her stand mixer,

and my vintage Christmas stocking

Ellen's vintage stocking © The Gracious Posse

that used an embroidery chain-stitch to make my names served as the inspiration for this project. With a little trial-and-error, I had my concept down and several Christmas presents for the 2015 holiday.

If you might be interested in doing the same, here is my tutorial for how to craft this simple and inexpensive heirloom.

Supplies You Will Need

  • Kitchen Towel. I have tested on various towels and found inexpensive absorbent, high quality towels at TJ Maxx work best. Etsy also has numerous ticking stripe choices. Wherever you source yours, the weave needs to be tight, not too open or waffle-y. The towels at TJ Maxx are sold in 2- or 3-packs and aren’t always stocked, so repeat visits might be necessary. 
  • Embroidery thread, Pearl Size 5. I use DMC brand. This is a single strand thread, not the kind you separate.
  • Embroidery needle, size 20
  • Embroidery hoop, 3″ or 4″ works best
  • Scissors
  • Needle threader 
  • Rubber eraser
  • Washable marker to match your thread color. I use a Crayola fine line marker.
  • pencil
  • Design stencil or tracing paper, depending on your design transfer method (step 2).

Step 1 – Design

What will you say on your towel? My sample today says Merry Christmas, but you can get creative. 

Step 2 – Transfer Design to Towel

Probably the trickiest part of this project is transferring your message onto the towel for a stitching guide. I have three methods:

Free-hand Method

This works well if you have cool penmanship. Just make sure your message is centered, use a washable marker and write directly on the towel. 

Stencil Method

I use my vinyl cutter to make a stencil. If you don’t have a vinyl cutter, or a friend with a vinyl cutter, you can purchase a stencil from The Gracious Posse (contact me at ) for $10.

Adhering Stencil to Towel collage © The Gracious Posse From left to right:

  • Fold towel lengthwise and crease to form center line.
  • Fold stencil in half to crease center.
  • After making sure your stencil is level horizontally, mark corners of stencil with pencil or marker.
  • Peel back of stencil off to expose sticky side of vinyl, turn over and align centers and corners.
  • Place sticky side of vinyl on towel, press with your hand.
  • Peel off transfer tape.
  • Use marker to trace your design.

Ready to Stitch © The Gracious Posse
At this point you may want to use the rubber eraser to remove the corner markings. You’re ready to stitch. Go to Step 3!

Tracing Paper Method

Start with Saral Transfer Paper (graphite color for white towels, yellow for dark towels).

You will also need

  • large binder clips
  • a firm, thin book
  • masking tape
  • a stylus (a ball point pen tip will work).

Tracing Method - center design collage © The Gracious Posse From left to right:

  • Fold towel in half lengthwise.
  • Crease with your hand to mark the horizontal center.
  • Print out your design on paper. (Alex Brush font, size 25 for this towel).
  • Fold design in half lengthwise and crease.

Tracing Method Transfer Collage © The Gracious Posse From left to right:

  • Center the towel at the center of the book.
  • Use binder clips to stretch and hold towel in place.
  • Cut a piece of transfer paper and place it DARK SIDE DOWN on the towel.
  • Put your design on top of it, lining up the center line of the design and towel.
  • Tape the design in place.
  • Use your stylus to trace over your design SEVERAL TIMES bearing down hard on the paper without puncturing it.

Traced Design © The Gracious PosseI had to make four tracings to get the design to transfer enough to see it under a bright light.

  • Then use a marker to trace the design. You can even-out or correct anything at this point because the marker will wash clean.

Now comes the fun!

Design Ready to Stitch © The Gracious Posse

Step 3 – Stitch Design

First, attach embroidery hoop top and bottom, centered over the left side of design, and tighten the hoop to draw the towel taught.

Second, thread the needle using needle threader. Here’s how:
Thread the Needle collage © The Gracious Posse

From left to right:

  • Insert the needle threader through the eye of the needle.
  • Put thread through the small hoop.
  • Pull threader back out, pulling thread through the eye.
  • Tie a knot at the end of the thread.

Third, start the chain stitch.

  • Turn the hoop over, insert needle at the beginning of your text and pull to front.Insert Needle through Back Side of Towel © The Gracious Posse

Pull Thread to Front Side © The Gracious Posse

  • Hold the thread with your thumb and insert needle back into the original hole
    Insert Needle Through First Hole © The Gracious Posse
  • Gently pull the thread until it forms a loopForm Loop © The Gracious Posse
  • From underside, insert needle through loop along the stitching line, about 1/16 to 1/8″ from the original hole.Insert Needle Through Loop from Back Side © The Gracious Posse
  • Pull thread through. You have completed one chain stitch.First Stitch Complete © The Gracious Posse
  • Next insert needle into second hole to form second loop.

Insert Needle through Second Hole © The Gracious Posse

Insert Needle through Loop from Back Side to Form Second Stitch © The Gracious PosseSecond stitch complete © The Gracious Posse

Continue chain-stitching along the pattern line of your design, leaving enough thread at the end of your strand to knot it on the back-side.


After you have completed the stitching, remove hoop. Use rubber eraser to buff off pencil marks. Launder the towel along with your other white towels, and dry. Use a stain remover on the pencil marks and graphite transfer residue if desired. The washable marker will disappear as advertised. Turn over your towel and inspect the knots, ensuring they have held through the wash.

back side of kitchen towel © The Gracious Posse

After inspecting, trim any frayed ends.

Iron towel from the back side so as to not mash down the stitching.

Other Helpful Hints

  • Pre-cutting 36″ lengths (I used 8.5 cuts for this project) saves time.
  • If you are traveling by air and want to stitch, get one of these gizmos from your local stitching shop (this one is from Jermie’s). It has sharp edges between the slits. To cut your thread, simply embroidery thread cutter © The Gracious Posse

slide the thread on either side of the slit and pull firmly.

Completed Embroidered Kitchen Towel © The Gracious Posse

Now, with a sense of accomplishment, you have a handmade heirloom that my posse swear they love.

Merry Christmas in July!


July 21, 2016

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Christmas in July DIY Kitchen Towel for Pinterest

RVA Day Trip: Orange County Area Delights

Ever since cFl’s younger son decided to attend Woodberry Forest School, she has been touting the delights to be found in and around the fairly rural county of Orange. Turns out that rural does not mean backward as those of us used to more urban living so often assume. Like nearby Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Orange County is sophisticated and full of enough captivating pleasures that you’ll want to share them with your posse or your spouse.

lounging space at Grelen overlooking barns © The Gracious Posse

Since January kMg and I have journeyed to Gordonsville

Gordonsville downtown

and beyond for a few low key escapes. Each visit encouraged us to plot our next return. Only about 75 minutes away, day trips are no-brainers, though an overnight stay at one of the charming inns and B&Bs dotting the rolling countryside would be lovely, too. Either way, kMg and I recommend

The Market at Grelen.

The top of our Orange County bucket list has been to visit The Market at Grelen.

plants for sale at Grelen © The Gracious Posse

We finally found the time a few weeks ago and couldn’t have been more satisfied. Hundreds of acres set in bucolic hills

Piedmong landscape at Grelen © The Gracious Posse

just north of Gordonsville and west of Orange have been supplying Piedmont homes with trees and shrubs since 2003.

covered porch at Grelen © The Gracious Posse - 1

More recently, the nursery has expanded to include a considerable gift shop and market cafe offering indoor and outdoor dining.

covered event space at Grelen © The Gracious Posse

Grelen also offers covered event space with incredible views and Thursday night concerts during the summer season. Locally sourced products, many of which are grown on Grelen’s own property, highlighted our tasty lunch, which we just had to top off with a sample of two of their homemade ice creams.

homemade ice creams at Grelen © The Gracious Posseblackberry ginger (on left) and peach almond

If you are in the market for beautiful outdoor furnishings and statuary,

luch table surrounded by beauty for sale at Grelen © The Gracious Posse

Grelen likely has just what you need. The whole operation, including the friendly staff, provides loads of inspiration for your own gardens.

picturesque axis at Grelen © The Gracious Posse

Make a day of your visit and bring your hiking shoes: Grelen’s trails will provide your 10,000 steps while discovering why people love visiting Virginia’s beautiful Piedmont region.

market and cafe at Grelen © The Gracious Posse

Open from March – December, Grelen provides specific information on events and what is growing here. We can’t wait to go back and would love to enjoy dinner under the stars

dining patio at Grelen © The Gracious Posse

with live music in the background. We would begin the day


The joys of antiquing with your posse is two-fold: the thrill of the hunt and the sharing of reminisces that different objects bring to mind. Start at the Gordonsville Antiques and Flea Market

Gordonsville Antiques

on your way into that town. Filled to the rafters with tchotkes from days gone by, you’ll find yourself strolling down memory lane for at least an hour. If the antiquing bug really bites, forget the more modern pleasures of Gordonsville, turn left onto Route 33 and wind your way to Ruckersville just outside of Orange County. High and low antique/vintage shops dot the intersection of Route 33 and Route 29 heading south to Charlottesville. If you manage to get them all in, by the time you are done, you will be ready for dinner, whether at Grelen or


Pomme storefront

Hope you have made your reservation for this small bistro set in the middle of Main Street in Gordonsville.

haricots verte salad at Pomme © The Gracious Posse

Pomme packs people in for a taste of France in the Piedmont.

coconut ice cream at Pomme © The Gracious Posse

The gorgeous presentations, charming French country decor and delicious bites keep patrons coming back to this culinary outpost.

With wineries like the Zagat-recommended Barboursville and picturesque inns and B&Bs still to discover in Orange County, look for us to continue burning up I-64 to Route 15 North whenever we can get some of the posse together. Want to come along? Let us know when you are free. We are always in the market for a girl’s trip.


July 13, 2016

This Memorable Wedding Embraces Rivah-Style

People in these parts head to the Rivah to escape the everyday, relax and enjoy the cool breezes and water views in a laid-back environment. While the concepts of stress-free and weddings rarely coexist, when a bride decides to combine the two at the Rivah, magic can happen. Take a look at how one bride embraced her low-key style to create a beautiful and memorable wedding that suited her and her beloved perfectly.

ceremony site at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

When jBr offered to host her dear friend Katie’s wedding at their newly remodeled Rivah home, she had a feeling the bride and groom would appreciate the setting for the intimate ceremony and reception with close family and friends. The home’s redesign

home base designed by Janet Wright for Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

by Janet Wright and Associates and

Janie Molster-designed interior rain site for Rivah wedding ceremony © The Gracious Posse

interiors by Janie Molster take full advantage of the sweeping Rappahannock River views

view to the Chesapeake Bay at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

to the Chesapeake Bay and embrace all the simple pleasures of Rivah living. Having moved to the Tidewater area to be with her fiancé, Richmond native Katie was delighted not only with the water view but also that this Rivah home was centrally located for most of the wedding guests from both regions and who could be easily accommodated by the reconfigured layout of jBr’s second home.

view from above at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

When you have such a beautiful view, the ceremonial spot just needs a simple arch

wedding arch at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

adorned with some greenery and a few flowers, as well as chairs for the guests. Following the Southern superstition tradition for insuring glorious weather on the wedding day that we described in Planning an At Home Wedding?, jBr and her husband buried a bottle of bourbon under the spot where the arch would stand one month in advance.

diggin up the upside-down bourbon bottle after ceremony at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

So far this tradition is 2-for-2 in our book as Katie and her groom were blessed with a picture-perfect day with the loveliest of cool river breezes. 

Katie’s motto through the wedding-planning process was to keep it simple and budget-friendly. Her mother and sister mJg prepared the vast majority of the food served on

family silver in use at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

family silver. Garden-style in-season flowers

garden flowers at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

filled vases

tabletop garden flowers at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

owned by the family.

garden flowers in stoneware pitcher at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

The ceremony chairs were simply carried over

dinner tables at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

to the dinner tables afterwards. jBr’s talented son ARB even mixed the music throughout.

music mixer at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

In keeping with the simplicity of the late-afternoon event, the newlyweds provided old-fashioned fun for their guests, including their personalized corn hole game

corn hole featured at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

with hand-painted boards, and a photo-booth

photo booth props at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

where guests could play dress up. Special touches

bar at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

at the bar included individually-made mojitos with

mojito bar at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

fresh-cut mint. Everyone left with

Two Less Fish in the Sea at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

a signature coozie.

reception area at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

Because the covered porch was used for buffet tables, jBr had her porch furniture moved out into the yard to provide extra seating as guests lingered.

beloved dogs at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posseeven the couple’s dogs make an appearance

While they could have enjoyed the perfect setting all night, the bride and groom needed to make their getaway before dark …

water getaway at Rivah wedding © The Gracious Posse

by boat, of course!

Congratuations and best wishes to Katie and Burney! Thank you for sharing your special day with us and proving that a wedding doesn’t have to become a stress-inducer, especially when it happens at the Rivah.


July 6, 2016

Welcome, July 2016!

Unless your child is a summer swimmer, things slow down in RVA as residents flee to the Rivah, ocean or mountains. For those of us left, there are still new things to try, including Walter Bundy’s new restaurant, Shagbark, and two newly opened rooftop bars at Quirk and Kabana. Here are just a few things we are looking forward to this sultry month.

Ashley Farley’s Latest Release

Friday, July 1st

Independence Day

Lady Liberty © The Gracious Posse

Monday, July 4th
If you are anywhere near the Rivah, check out the old-fashioned Hometown Parade in downtown Irvington, Virginia.

10 a.m. – 12 noon

The Richmond Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare at Agecroft Hall
July 7th-31st
(opening night is July 9th)
Agecroft Hall
7:30 p.m. (grounds open at 6 p.m.)
 tickets here

Wimbledon Finals

Players on Grass Court of Wimbledon © The Gracious Posse

Saturday and Sunday, July 9th & 10th
If you want an on-the-grounds experience, click here for Ellen’s coverage.

Full Moon

Good Morning Moon on the Rappahannock River © The Gracious Posse

Tuesday, July 19th
Have you ever had one of those days – when everything seems to go wrong – and you look out the window and discover a full moon in the sky? Although no scientific evidence backs up the correlation or causation of bizarre events and a full moon, it’s more than just peculiar coincidence. Even the words LUNACY and LUNATIC are derived from the word moon. So next time you get a flat tire, forget an appointment and lock yourself out of your house all in one day, it’s not you, it’s the full LUNA!

Thread the Needle Day

Thread the Needle © The Gracious Posse

Monday, July 25

Who knows the origin of this curious day, but it can be celebrated literally by pulling thread through the eye of a needle, or metaphorically as in politics (navigating a diplomatic path between opposing views) or in sports (moving a ball successfully through the narrowest of courses). Look for a Christmas in July post to celebrate
Thread the Needle Day!

Dogwood Dell Amphitheater


July 29th-31st and August 5th-6th
8:30 p.m. curtain but arrive early

International Day of Friendship

Founded by the United Nations, the International Day of Friendship promotes

friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals to inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities

Cheers at the Pitcher Inn © The Gracious PosseOn Saturday, July 30 raise a glass and toast your posse!


June 30, 2016

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Summer 2016 Reading

Summertime and the reading is easy.

reading at the beach © The Gracious Posse - 1

With summer now in full swing, I am stealing every opportunity to indulge my favorite activity of the season: reading. Give me a book, a shaded seat and water, and I am in my happy place. Pool, Rivah, ocean ~ it doesn’t matter, just a little something to cool me off when the heat and humidity intensify.

Veranda July:Aug 16 cover

(can’t imagine a more perfect spot to read than lounging on a chaise in this breathtaking pool-side Palm Beach gazebo featured on one of the July-August ’16 covers of Veranda magazine)

Unlike so many kids who don’t know what they are missing, I always loved summer reading and still remember my first serious required summer reading as one of my favorites: The Once and Future King by T. H. White. Though I spent quite a chunk of the summer getting through that one, the reward was huge.

When my son received his high school summer required reading books, I would review that pile he refused to touch until August and take some for a test ride first. Like Julia Johnson, I couldn’t resist To Kill a Mockingbird, which had never been on my required reading list, and also discovered the charming The Housekeeper and The Professor. Much to THF‘s dismay, his college issued the freshman required summer reading, and my curiosity couldn’t keep me away from the disturbing yet ultimately satisfying Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.

Always on the lookout for one serious read of the summer, I pepper the rest of it with the lighter fare that I snatch up from some of my favorite chick lit authors as soon as their annual offerings debut. I’ve already devoured these new releases:

All Summer Long by Dorothea Benton Frank


Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

and thoroughly enjoyed the audio versions of

A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe

and particularly

Flight Patterns by Karen White.

Julia Johnson, author of the marvelous

Be Frank With Me,

mentioned both in our interview and at her reading that

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

is her favorite book, so naturally I had to hunt that one down. True to Julia’s word, it is a beautifully written novel in a most unusual setting.

The Gracious Posse’s favorite women’s lit author has a new book coming out this Friday, July 1st. Ashley Farley’s sequel to

Her Sister’s Shoes

takes you back to the town of Prospect, South Carolina and my favorite trio of sisters (other than my own), the Sweeneys, and their eponymous seafood shop.

Lowcountry Stranger is full of more intrigue in another fast-paced story that celebrates life in a small town and the importance of family ties. If you haven’t yet had the chance to meet the Sweeney Sisters, Her Sister’s Shoes is now also available in audio format through so you can listen in the car or while you are walking, gardening or otherwise working out.

My last two summer recommendations are considered Young Adult books, though they definitely have broader appeal. Each features a heroine on the cusp of adulthood, but their circumstances couldn’t be any more different. The first, which Julia Johnson mentioned on her Richmond visit and that I had adored a few years ago, is

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (the author of the original 101 Dalmatians).

Set in England in the 1930s and first published in 1948, the story was reissued in 2003 and has been rediscovered in recent years by the likes even of J.K. Rowling. Jane Austen fans in particular will appreciate it (you will also enjoy Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice).

The second book was released by local author Meg Medina earlier this year. She’s a member of my very special posse, and her stories about growing up with Cuban heritage are reaching an audience of young people not used to reading about themselves in books.

Burn Baby Burn portrays the life of Nora Lopez who graduates and turns 18 in Queens in June 1977 as the Son of Sam terrorizes everyone stuck in sweltering New York City. The book provides a thought-provoking platform for teens to consider and discuss fear and violence (domestic and otherwise) and seems especially timely after the recent incomprehensible terror in Orlando. Despite its difficult subject matter, the novel seamlessly engages the reader as it recalls those tumultuous disco days.

With these reads under my belt, I can’t wait to see what escape-through-the-written-word I will take next. I always welcome suggestions, so please leave your ideas in the Reply box below.


June 28, 2016

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