Tool Aprons for Women who Work HARD

One of the best parts of making and selling my super-sturdy, upcycled tool aprons is that it puts me in contact with other hard-working women on a mission.


In the last few years, I’ve made aprons for gardeners, teachers, painters, knitters, seamstresses, decorators, and midwives.


And then there was Vibrantkate, the English Girl Guides camp counselor, who needed one for tent building.  Kate, who became a mom this year, told me she now uses her apron for pegging the wash while holding  baby Tom.  (I bet he’ll have a fun childhood.)


And  last week,  I  completed a project for Donna  a local practitioner of massage techniques that  help women with birth, pelvic and digestive problems.


Donna needed a special pocket for her massage oils.  She loaned me a bottle and I went to work on her apron modification, making an elastic topped canvas pocket which I sewed inside one of the larger pockets.


And here’s the final result!


Success!  Another hard-working woman working in one of my tool aprons.    It makes me proud

If you want to know more about  Donna’s practice Seven Generations Massage and Birth in Cary NC,  go to

And for more information about my tool aprons and other reclaimed fabric creations, check out my Etsy shop:


What to Do With an Old Patchwork Quilt #1: Make a Pet Place Mat

I live in the South, where everyone quilted back in the day.   That makes it easy to find lots of ratty old scrap quilts in thrift stores and flea markets for just a few bucks.

And like any vintage textile that’s super-abundant (think 70s polyester), I’m always wondering:  How can I upcycle that?oldquilt1

Case in point:  This recent purchase  from  Cause for Paws Thrift  in Raleigh.  I’ll admit the front is pretty unremarkable, but I thought the back had tons of possibilities thanks to 4 LARGE pieces of vintage fabric.  (Note to self: always turn a quilt over before passing it by.)

Once I brought the quilt home, I threw it in my (front load) washer,  then dryer.  Since front loaders don’t wring clothes, they’re much easier on quilts.

The batting came out of the wash a little lumpy, but (thankfully) stayed intact. I have dug loose cotton out of the wash before–not pretty.

Next, I cut and squared, a large rectangle for my pet place mat.oldquiltback

Applique made it more fun.  The cat  is actually  WRONG side up.  Flipping it gave the print a faded, aged look.  I used a “halo” of brown fabric to make my cat and  the words “Spoil Me” stand out.oldquilt_appli

All the pieces are cut out and arranged first, stuck with quilters adhesive spray , and stitched down with two rows of zig-zag.  As with any layered applique, start in the center and work out.oldquiltrows

Next, I quilted my place mat to an old bath towel using the original diagonal quilting lines, plus an extra row in between.  This is an important step since it stabilizes the vintage fabrics, keeps the batting from shifting anymore, and generally beefs-up the piece.  Pet place mats need a lot of washing, after all.oldquilt_towel

I re-squared, and trimmed before adding my mitered edges.

And here it is–oldquiltfinished

I’m taking this, 5 more pet place mats,  and my other Kiki’s Rewind Designs to the holiday craft sale at St Thomas More in Chapel Hill on Saturday.  If you want to buy and give “local”,  check it out.  I love to sell and shop there! Great venue, great vibe!HolidayShoppePoster-1


What’s on my Sewing Table–Vintage Polyester Project Update


I’m happy at the way my 70s clutch and Christmas stocking are coming together.


Doubly happy because there’s a lot of polyester double-knit around, and since I’m on a personal mission to give new life to old fabrics,  I want to find ways to use this (rather difficult) textile.


Besides, the prints are so very retro they’re hard for a fabric collector to resist.   I snagged these (and more) last week at the Scrap Exchange in Durham.


Note that in both projects, I underlined the poly with a woven.  I used rows of stitches to hold the two layers together, but fusible interfacing would work also.   The underlining gives both projects more body and stability–a good thing since both are meant to hold things.  (Yes, Santa, I’ve been very good.)

poly2_stockfin2I’m considering this retro trim for the cuff of my stocking.  What do you think?


Project Ideas for 1970s Polyester

Let me start by stressing the word ideas.   I just bought these fabrics today.


Lucky me.  Someone who used to own a fabric store gave a barn full bolts to the Scrap Exchange–all vintage 70s, mostly in the fiber of the era, poly double knit.

Now, vintage poly is NOT my favorite fabric. It’s thick, has no drape, and is too hot to wear-but it does have some advantages. Poly has body, doesn’t ravel and the prints are wonderfully retro.

Here’s  what I bought today, and what I plan to do with with my choices:


Red, white,  and wine colored daisies will become retro Christmas stockings.   If the stretch poses a problem, I plan to interface  or line my stockings.  Of course, they’ll have a wide contrasting cuff–maybe something unexpected like burlap.


I snagged this green print for  more holiday projects. What do think about it as part of a table runner?  Should it be the center fabric or edging band?  I haven’t decided, yet.


This geometric print will become a perfect pair of simple throw pillows.  Note the other geo–a pillow made with 1940s  men’s jammies in the shot.


I love combining fabrics, so I plan to use these two together in a pillow or bag.  I may even channel quilt the plain fabric.


This bright hounds tooth plaid called out to me in loud voice.  I’m thinking bag(s).


Finally, blue is my color and according to the end of the bolt,  this woven poly was made in Alamance county where I grew up.   I think I’ll make a blouse, putting the wrong (lighter side) of the print out. I love using textiles that have a story.   I could wear it to a cocktail party and break the ice.

If you have any other suggestions for today’s fabric finds, please weigh in.

All of them are off to the washer and dryer.  Stay tuned for progress reports.

Buy my Designs at the Western Wake Farmers Market this Weekend–Take My Class at the Scrap


Why is my dining room/sewing table in such a crazy state?

Because I’m getting ready for a super busy sewing weekend.

On Saturday (11/1)  I’m selling my Rewind Designs at my favorite local farmers market WWFM  in Cary, (NC), and on Sunday (11/2),  I’m teaching a Practical Sewing Workshop at the Scrap Exchange in Durham;

The craft market  a rain or shine event–looks like rain or at least cloudy and cool weather, but there are some bright spots:


I finished the 3 clutch purses in 40s and 50s fabrics that I was working on last week. I’m very  pleased with the results.


And I’m working on some favorite little pieces for the sale:  quilted pot holders and pet place mats.

Plus–I’ll have more than a dozen of my signature super-sturdy garden/craft tool aprons.   They are my top sellers.


The sewing pile for Sunday’s class is not nearly as creative, but just as important, maybe even more so since it’s promoting sustainability.


I have jeans to hem, shirts and pants to alter, and my favorite garden shorts to patch.  Note to self:  never put metal bolts in your pants pocket.  Use a super sturdy tool apron instead.



What to do with Grandma Hankies and Other Fragile Fabrics –Adding Body with Channel Quilting

I didn’t start out to become a quilter. It just happened.


One day I was re-shelving my stash of grandma hankies for the millionth time and I thought: I’m going to use these things or lose them—

But how? Like a lot vintage fabrics, old hankies are thin and fragile. And there’s little room for fragile things in my life.

The solution was anchoring my hankies to canvas for strength using rows of stitching.

I learned later that this technique is called Channel Quilting. (You don’t have to have batting between the fabrics to be quilting, by the way.)

Earth-friendly quilters spray and pins secure the fabric layers while I’m stitching.


My beloved Pfaff sewing machine with the built-in walking foot makes the process go smoothly without much shifting.

I work mainly on small to medium sized pieces, rarely larger than 30 inches.

The presser foot is my primary seam guide.

I change the needle position from center to side for more space between the rows and GO!

hankie_4 hankie_5

This technique has become the basis of my work with vintage and reclaimed fabrics. I don’t just use channel quilting to put delicate pieces like hankies and quilt fragments on my signature garden and craft tool aprons. It’s  the way I alter the weight of many light fabrics so I can use them in interesting ways.

Take these soft dress and scarf prints from the 40s and 50s. Quilted to canvas and interfacing, they take center stage in a trio of retro fall clutch purses (in progress).


I hope to finish these bags in time for my next craft show on November 1st at the Western Wake Farmers Market. I just hope I can bear to part with them. I do love these fabrics. All three are great finds but I had no idea what to do with them…until I added body.

What’s on my Sewing Table: Scarves and Scooters from Ireland

We’re on vacation in Ireland and while there are millions of sheep, bins of beautiful  yarns, and sweaters in every shop,  there are still lots of cool fabrics to get me inspired–


I bought this layered scarf at the Galway Street Market.  It’s basically 3 descending triangles of light/sheer fabric that are serged on the edges and sewn together at the top.

I can’t wait to get home and create my own version on my vintage industrial serger.  Combining different  fabrics and trims in a single piece is my favorite part of what I do!

My new favorite sewing book came from  Hickey’s Fabric store (also in Galway).   Inspired by sewing patterns from the 40s , 50s, and 60s,  it’s full of funky hats,  purses,  and collars.


I especially like  the covered button badges in the book.  They’re a great way to use up the little bits and homeless words  that  I can’t bear to part with.


Fabric makes a great souvenir.  It packs flat and won’t break in your baggage.   I thought these red,  white, and blue scooters were unique and bought a meter to cut up and for throw  pillows and pot holders.  Like the woman in the shop said–people are passionate about their bikes.


Finally when I see something in my travels that I want to try at home, I go back to the hotel and make a quick sketch.  Sketching is much less intrusive than snapping pictures of people’s clothing, shop goods, or furniture.  Plus, so many photos seem to get lost down the digital rabbit hole –

Old school sketching works best for me.    Yes, I know it’s paper–but I never leave home without it.


So how to do you capture and save inspiration?

2nd Sunday Sewing–Same Great Community Meet up at a New Location, Day, and Time


I’ll confess, I was worried.   When the Scrap Exchange in Durham moved to a new (improved) location and changed their hours I thought–what will happen to Sew Night?



I love being a part of  this vibrant, ever-changing community meet up.  It’s  the best value in sewing (FREE) and always a jump start for my sewing.

I get so many great ideas there–

So I’m happy to say we’re not losing it–just morphing it.

Beginning this Sunday 9/14/14, Sew Night becomes  2nd Sunday Sewing 

  • The meet up will be  monthly on the second Sunday afternoon of each month
  • The time 2-6
  • The location is the new and improved Scrap Exchange Design Center–(I was there today setting up machines with other volunteers and it promises to be an awesome new space)



Sewing Sundays are open to all ages and skill levels.  Bring your own machine or use one of the Scrap’s.  Just bring your creativity–







Making Multiples–100 African Print Napkins for a Good Cause

All my Kiki’s Rewind Designs are one of kind.   And while working that way will never make me rich, I love it.  Each piece is fun and challenging to make.  The vintage and reclaimed fabrics I use have unique stories to tell.

Old feed sack prints transformed into new pillow cases.

Old feed sack prints transformed into new pillow cases.

But every now and then, I’m drafted to do  multiples–like these African print napkins to raise money for a girls academy in Kenya.


The cause is Uhuru Child.


That’s Marcia from the fund-raising banquet team cutting  an authentic African wax  print  at my dining room table.

We started by tearing the prewashed fabric into long strips which I finished on the 61 year old industrial serger that lives in my garage.



Marcia cut the serged strips into squares using a rotary cutter.


Back at  the serger, I rolled through  the remaining raw edges on each napkin.

My stepfather was drafted to do the finishing work.  After sealing thread tails with fray check, he  laid the napkins out on the porch between sheets of paper. When the threads were dry, we clipped them.


105 napkins later and we were done!

Yes, it was a long, hard afternoon, but I was grateful to be a part of it. Thinking of the young women of Uhuru reminded me how lucky I am to have been born an American girl with free public education (and the great opportunity that comes with it!)

If you’d like to see more beautiful African fabrics and help the women of Uhuru support their community, check out their craft site–coming back to ETSY on September 14th.

And while you’re on ETSY, you can stop by my shop, too:

Finally, there’re a lot of great sewing causes out there. How to you share your time and talent???

Making Mock Box Corners ( And Other Loose Ends and Updates)

Covering box edge cushions can be challenging–trust me, I’ve made my share.   Seems they often come in groups of 3 or 6.

Lots of box cushions on this recent slipcover project.

Lots of box cushions on this recent slipcover project.

But the mock box corner is so easy I teach it to my Basic Sewing students at the Scrap Exchange in Durham.    This is the corner I like to use when I’m making quick and easy purses from awesome Scrap fabric samples.

Step 1:  Sew 3  sides of a rectangle together.  Make sure to PIVOT at the lower edges instead of sewing to the end of the fabric.  We’ll use that seam allowance later.  And yes, a fold can replace your bottom seam.  That’s what I did in the example.

Side seam and bottom fold.  Note how I've clipped the seam allowance and pressed the side seam(s) open

Side seam and bottom fold. Note how I’ve clipped the seam allowance and pressed the side seam(s) open

2:  Press all seam allowances OPEN.  If you’re using a fold like I am, you’ll need to clip the seam open.   Now channel your inner paper airplane maker and fold the side seams into the center of a point–think of the airplane’s  nose.

Side seam now looks like a paper airplane nose.

Side seam now looks like a paper airplane nose. Pins are marking the stitching line

4: Stitch across the point TWICE for strength.  Cut off excess then flip to the right side and there you have it–cool boxy shape or at least half of one.  So repeat on the other side.

Cutting off the excess fabric in the corner

Cutting off the excess fabric in the corner


Outside purse bottom

Outside purse bottom

Once you get the hang of mock box corners it’s easy to move from purses to pillows like this one pal Karen and I  sewed from two larger samples.  There’s a zipper in the back seam so she can take the cover off for cleaning.

Mock box corners made this bottom cushion super-easy

Mock box corners made this bottom cushion super-easy

In the loose end department– reader, cousin, and sewing pal Betsy requested a photo of the hidden deck in the slipcover at the top of this blog .  I’m so glad I scrimped fabric at every turn on that project.  In the end, it needed an extra 10 yards of piping which I was able to create from the yardage that didn’t end up in the deck.

Stretching my fabric with a hidden canvas deck

Stretching my fabric with a hidden canvas deck

And for niece and nephews BB&T, my transformed birthday tee.  New neckline, new bodice and sleeve length, even new side seams (many tee shirts don’t have them).  It’s a favorite and I always get compliments.  Woof Yall and thanks for remembering my b’day.  Scroll down on this earlier post if you want to see the BEFORE shot of my unisex shirt.

Dog lovers tee remade.  Note our puppy's back in lower right.  She hates the camera!

Dog lovers tee remade. Note our puppy’s back in lower right. She hates the camera!


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