Ask Jo: Tomatoes and Cross Stitch Frames

Hello, and welcome to another edition of “Ask Jo”.  I get many comments and questions from all sorts of places, the comment section here, Youtube, email, and from our Facebook group.  Sometimes I think others of you might want to know the answers as well so I answer them here on the blog.   Today I’m covering topics from tomatoes to framing cross stitch.

I had a VERY popular question…

Elaine asked:
Jo – your gardens and pots look lovely and your veggie garden is waaay ahead of mine! In one of the pix, it looks as tho your tomato plants (? … not sure – can’t enlarge the pix on this computer) are wrapped in brown paper or grown in tubes. Can you tell me what’s going on there?

Dori asked:
Lovely yard. I will look for supertunias next year. What are you growing your tomatoes in?

Pamela asked:
Your yard & garden are lovely ! I’m jealous ! It all looks so healthy!! Nice work. May I inquire? What exactly do you have at the base of your tomatoes? You should be proud! Lots of hard work! Thank you for sharing!

This question came after my garden post.  I’m guessing this picture prompted the questions.
Here is a close-up picture of what I have around my tomato plants.  They are old field tiles.  In the olden days before modern tile that farmers us for drainage, they used to bury these in the ground to make a pile and help with water drainage in farm fields.  Everything is modernized nowadays and they no longer use these.

Growing up both my and Kramer’s parents would use these in the garden for tomatoes.  My parents would put a tile around a tomato plant when they planted it in the spring just like some people put coffee cans or milk jugs around their tomato plants.  The tiles work even better.  The sun warms the tile and warms the small seedling tomato plant.  It acts a bit like a greenhouse.  It also prevents the wind from whipping the small plants.

When I plant in the spring, I put a tile and a cage on each tomato plant.  I have a small garden and pack way more into it than I should.

The tile also helps keep the plant together in a smaller space.  I love using them.

Below is a picture of three tomato plants.  I ended up buying more plants than I had tile for.  These three have no tile.  Look how crazy they are.  Even with cages, they are pretty sprawled out.  It makes them harder to weed and well, it makes the garden just look messier.

So I like the tile.  The sad news…tile can’t really be found.

Buck found these for me.  He was driving past an old farmplace and saw them.  He stopped and asked if they might be for sale.  Happily, he said yes and Buck shared them with me.

Next topic…cross stitch frames…and initials…After I showed my framed cross stitch Rosie asked:
I noticed you initialed the smaller sampler, but didn’t see your initials on the big one. Any reason why you didn’t add your initials? And I LOVE the frames you used. Makes the pieces absolutely STUNNING!! Brava, girl. Way to go.”

This one is an easy question.  The small sampler had a place built in the design to put my initials.  The large one didn’t.  I had thought to put them in the corner under the moth’s wing.  I got it stitched and was so excited to get it framed that I sent it off without my initials.  I didn’t realize that I forgot to put them in until the piece came back from the framer.  I’m going to get some placards mounted to the back of the piece that gives more info.

Elizabeth commented:
Love them can’t you find goodwill frames and frame some yourself would be a lot quicker.

These were my finished pieces.

I am so in love with them.  I sprung for the more expensive museum glass and I had them custom framed.  I spent a lot of money on them…but I’m okay with that.  It’s my guilty pleasure I guess.

As far a framing and finishing things myself, I have.

This is a small Lizzie Kate piece.  It’s in a thrift store frame.

The board that this cross stitch piece came from is also a thrift store find.  It had a little saying in the middle.  I mounted this where the words were.  I love it.

I finished this piece too.  It is mounted onto a thrift store decorative cutting board.  I am very pleased with this too.

This was a thrift store frame the Kramer cut down for me.

Kramer cut this one down to size too.

I am so happy with all of those finishes.  I think the finishing is great and I wouldn’t do it any other way.

But.  Now that I’ve seen how nice a custom frame is, I am no longer happy with the finishing on the piece I stitched below.  This is the first big piece I did.  It was my “Covid stitch”.  I thought the verse was so special and meaningful to me then and now.

The thrift store frame is fine…it’s not wow.  It doesn’t make the piece shine.  I want this to go on my sampler wall and put with the latest pieces I got framed, it looks exactly what it is…a thrift store frame.

The piece is from The Scarlett House and is called Seeking Refuge.

I want a custom frame for this.  I want museum glass on this.  I want this to look nice and give it an upgrade that is befitting to it.

These larger cross stitch pieces take me 3-4 months to stitch.  I put in anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours into them a day.  One blog reader left a comment saying I am stitching heirlooms.  I believe I am.  I’m sure my boys wouldn’t be thrilled to inherit these, but I feel like my girls might.  I want to really make them look nice.

Elizabeth is right.  It would be a lot quicker to do it myself if I can find the time to lace the piece if I can find a frame.  So many cross-stitch samplers are custom-sized.  Few fit a standard 10 x 13…or any other standard size.  Then I might have to touch up or paint the frame.  Then I’d want to buy the museum glass to protect the piece and not have the glare…for that, it’s a 30-mile trip twice.  Once to take the piece to order…once to pick it up.  It’s still not a fast process to do it myself…this way I can pass it off and only worry about writing a check.

I’ve made the decision that this one is going to get popped out of the frame and I’m sending it to Total Framing for an updo.

I am perfectly content finishing small things myself.  I love thrift store frames for them.  I don’t care if they do or don’t have glass.  I only had a week or two into stitching them.  The big pieces are getting custom framed.

I liken it a little bit to quilting.  It’s perfectly fine to tie a charity quilt or a charm square quilt…or any quilt that has more of simpler design.  But…if I spend hours and hours making an intricate feathered star quilt, it needs to long-armed.  I guess I’m saying there is a time and place for everything.  Tying can be okay…longarming or hand quilting can be okay.  It just depends on the creator and their preferences for their work.

There are many people who go to home decoration stores and pop out $150 for something they are hanging on their wall.  They don’t think anything of it.  The piece wasn’t handmade.  The piece will likely make its way to Goodwill in 10 years when styles change.  My pieces won’t be going to Goodwill and I don’t think these classic pieces will ever go out of style.

I thank Elizabeth so much for her comment.  I have actually been feeling a little bit guilty about wanting to take the stitched piece with the thrift store frame out and sending it to Total Framing.  I kept reasoning with myself about the cost and the extra money I’d spend but, after writing this post, I’m convinced more than ever that I want to send it off…

and with that, I’m off to pop it out of the frame, print the form to go with it, and send it off.  I want it to look really good and I’m confident they will do an amazing job on it.  Stay tuned…

25 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Tomatoes and Cross Stitch Frames”

  1. I use to do a lot of quite large cross stitches and tried framing them myself to save money but my husband convinced me that all the time and effort that I had put into them that it was only fitting to finish them off properly by getting them professionally framed, so I agree with you, there are times when it’s ok to do yourself but those special items need professional finishes

  2. I REALLY like those stitched pieces on your sewing room shelf. They say a great deal to me. Thank you!

  3. You’ve done such nice work on these, they deserve the best framing! A mix of old and new frames on the wall makes things interesting! Love the tomato story and wish I could grow them here. Grocery store tomatoes are not that swell.

  4. You are really nice Jo. My first thought is “ whose business is it anyway how you spend your own money”? But you are you and I never read a cross word from you. Thanks for your inspiration each day for me to try to be a better person.

  5. Thank-you for answering the questions. I am sorry that some don’t understand the reason you would spend money on getting some of your beautiful stitchings professionally done. I totally understand. I am the same way with which quilts get sent out for quilting.

  6. Thanks for clarifying about the tiles around your tomatoes; that is genius!. My DH used something similar – but they were octagonal on the outside so they didn’t roll when stacked –to build a wine rack in his first apartment – 21 YO guys have a lot of style, right? I found a lot of pictures by searching “clay drainage tiles” if someone wants to look for them in their area; FB marketplace or Freecycle might have them.

    Jo, your beautiful samplers ARE heirlooms — you invest hours and hours and lots of love in each. I think you should have them all nicely framed and glassed to keep them safe for future generations.

  7. Can someone please help me. I am looking for Jo’s recipes.
    I have spent the last hour looking for them. I have used her search bar and nothing comes up. I have looked at her menu. Nothing. I am on my phone. No computer, no Facebook, no Instagram…I have found them before. I would think recipes would also be listed alphabetically under her menu. Nope.

    1. Linda, use the search bar and write in the recipe you want. I don’t find an actual list of recipes (I’m on my laptop).

    2. Linda, a Google search on “Jo’s Country Junction recipes” found some of them, including this link to an archived category, where there seem to be quite a few. Click the Older Posts link at the bottom of the first page you get, to go back in time.

      The old recipes link may have gotten lost in a website re-design. Hope the above link helps.

  8. My mother did a lot of counted cross stitching. After she died, dad told us children we could take stuff from the house we wanted. I took the cross stitched ‘Bless This Home’ mom had framed herself. She had used stick on board in the back, the piece wasn’t long enough so she added a 2nd piece. I just didn’t look nice. I took it out of the frame and the sticky mounting board off the back, soaked it in oxyclean and rinsed it well. Carefully pressed it and had it professional mounted. It looks 100% better than it did. It cost me a lot but I have a real treasure. It will pass onto one of my children and then onto their children.

    You never know, one of your DIL’s may appreciate the cross stitching too.

  9. Margaret in North Texas

    I do like the frame on your Covid piece for some reason. It’s your call–your judgment is always good and I certainly understand the part about the amount of time each piece takes. Don’t underestimate “your boys” interest in your “heirlooms” —You might be surprised. I love the ones Kramer resized for you–that a nice rememberance done with love!

  10. Well my goodness, you spend nothing on yourself and totally deserve beautiful pieces. As a fellow cross-stitcher/quilter, I completely understand the value and enhancement a custom frame gives to your pieces. Every cross stitch I’ve done for myself or gifted, has been custom framed. Worth every penny.

    Happy Saturday Jo!

  11. I really love how you’ve arranged the wooden shelves with all things “antique and unique”.
    It’s worthy of being in Southern Living!! I’m a bit jealous. I particularly like the way you framed
    the Love cross stitch —so unique!

  12. Katherine Gourley

    Hi Jo,

    Your large samplers are phenomenal and deserve custom framing. Total Framing has a sale through July 11th (just in case you did not know)

  13. Jo, are there times you would use sheets other than 100% cotton as quilt backing? Many use Minke. How about microfiber? Other blends? For wall hanging? Appreciate your thoughts!

    1. You can also make a scrappy backing—take large pieces of coordinating fabric and sew together
      In rows. Check out Bonny Hunter’s blog, Quiltville.

  14. You finish your pieces how you want (and can afford). Sometimes the unexpected can be the perfect framing choice and sometimes what you think is the perfect frame is not what the receiver would like. Our tastes are all different and can change over time. This question pops up so much on sites along with glass or no glass. (I am firmly in the no glass camp unless I gift a smoker a piece.) I do most of my own framing as well as my own quilting so I have of pile of both that have never been final finished. LOL I gift many of my pieces so I do manage to frame those myself in a timely manner. I’m better with deadlines. And as you said, it is time consuming and requires precise work to frame your own. My FIL and now my husband have made frames for me but I have bought a few “professional” frames and mounted pieces myself. Thinking ahead, there are several larger pieces that I may have mounted and then source frames myself. As to creating “heirlooms”; you take your chances. We hear horror stories of people finding professionally framed Mirabillas leaning against dumpsters. Or people buy pieces to reuse the frames. I have done a lot of wedding samplers and have got to the point where I ask if they would like one. A nephew and his wife turned me down and my SIL is still miffed that I didn’t make them one anyway. Mattered to her but they couldn’t care less. I hope my children and friends take what they want and then display the rest at my funeral and people can take one if they want it. I made a small 50th anniversary piece for an older friend and her husband. She was so touched by the piece, that she wants to be buried with it. You just never know.

  15. I’m so glad you’re going to send it in for a custom framing. It’s an important work to you, and it should be, as its gorgeous plus it acknowledges how tough the pandemic was for you (and all of us!). You can save the thrift store frame for another use – and can always dry brush a little gold or silver lightly over the raised edges (or a different paint color), or age it or whatever for something else that is special to you to make a simple frame more elegant. Thanks so much for sharing your thought process and what you’re doing. You are so talented and I learn so much from just reading your blog each day (besides the enjoyment!).

  16. And by sending it out, your projects are really finished. I finished Statue of Liberty, found a frame in the stash the right size but too bright of gold. I used it anyway “for now” and found a lovely but too big frame at thrift. Guess what’s been sitting for several months waiting to be cut down?? Sometimes having something done and off the to-do list and your mind is well worth the cost. Just like the decision to send a quilt out that you could do yourself but take months (years?) to do.

    Mom put her tomatoes in clay tiles too, not only for wind protection, but also cutworms. I wonder what ever happened to all of those tiles…

  17. I forgot to say – compared to the other custom frames, the frame on the sampler you are having re-done is a bit plain. Flat. Blah. But it does have nice design embossed into it. While it’s empty, maybe take sand paper to it and sand down the high spots and stain it? Add a bit of metallic wax? OTOH, it may be perfect as is for maybe a Halloween sampler or something more primitive.

    Does anyone pick out a frame and then decide what project to make for it?

  18. Barbara E Lutgendorf

    Some things are great with thrift shop frames – and fun to do. However some items deserve to be professionally framed, and that’s totally ok. the tomato pipe planting is very intriguing and tidy! who knew tomato plants could be tidy. Once had a volunteer cherry tomato plant climb all over the fence and the climbing rose. The tomatoes were good, the rose bush not so much.

  19. I’m a bit of a picker when it comes to rocks, old bricks, cut stones and yes, drain tiles. I’ve been assembling my 30-year collection of salvaged treasures into a new 4’x8′ herb bed and still have lots of drain tiles left and a few tomatoes that still need planted, so thanks so much for the idea!

    I haven’t cross-stitched in years but one of the most complex projects I ever made was a Christmas stocking for my husband. My sewing skills were lacking at that time so I did have someone else to finish it for me and have never regretted it.

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