On my Sewing Table Today–Vintage Fabric Hats

The February weather outside IS frightful.

No snow! That's sleet and ice in my back garden.

No snow! That’s sleet and ice in my back garden.

But inside, it’s full-blown spring and summer since my latest sewing project is spread all over the house.

Spring green homespun checks and a vintage floral Irish tablecloth

Spring green homespun checks and a vintage floral Irish tablecloth

I love making these little unlined fabric hats.  They’re light, washable,  simple to sew and a good home for  lots of old tablecloth (and other) cottons from my stash.

Plus my dermatologist is always telling me to cover that big cow lick on the back of my head.

My pattern came from an old hat that belonged to my dear friend Megan’s mom.  Sorry, there are no “before” photos since we had to take the original hat apart apart to figure it out.

Most hats are super simple--this one has only 5 pieces

Most hats are super simple–this one has only 5 pieces

There was no interfacing in the original and I’m putting none in my hats.  Instead, I’m adding rows of stitching to give  the brim body.

Note the rows of stitching.  It's a technique that I use in most of my Rewind Designs.

Note the rows of stitching. It’s a technique that I use in most of my Rewind Designs.

The lack of interfacing also makes the hat more breathable–which will be a big asset when the weather FINALLY warms up.   (It is supposed to be warm here in NC!)

Still trying to pick a favorite–with more on the cutting table.  What do you think?

the first hat went to pal Megan, who donated the original.  Thanks girl!

the first hat went to pal Megan, who donated the original. Thanks girl!

This vintage floral and denim will probably end up in my Esty shop.

This vintage floral and denim will probably end up in my Esty shop.

Blue flowers for the garden. Hurry spring!

Blue flowers for the garden. Hurry spring!


How (and why) to Make your own Chenille

I love combining and altering fabrics–and turning them into chenille is one of the techniques I use.

Let’s take this large monochromatic cotton floral print in the upper part of the photo below.   It was just a little to perfect for me, so I decided to distress it by making chenille.

Chenille Irises "Before".  I used the reverse side of the second fabric for my under layer so the wavy blue threads  would show through.

Chenille Irises “Before”. I used the reverse side of the second fabric for my under layer so the wavy blue threads would show through.

First I sandwiched  the print to a backing fabric that I wanted to show through.  I used  parallel rows of stitching with my presser foot as a guide.  (This is a great way to practice straight sewing.)

Chenille Irises in progress.  Washing will fray them (and create strings to clip)

Chenille Irises in progress. Washing will fray them (and create strings to clip)

Next, (carefully) cut down the middle of each row.  Small scissors work fine for me, but if you plan to use this technique a lot, you may want to invest in a  chenille cutter.  Here’s a link for info about this speedy little tool.

After I wash and dry my piece, it has a nice fluffy texture and depth.  Cool, don’t you think?


Here’s a closer look.  Can you see the wavy blue underneath?



And here’s another recent chenille project.


I needed a yellow-orange “fur” for this appliqued cat portrait.  Instead of shopping all over town or the web, I went to the thrift store.  A silky orange print blouse, stitched over a yellow sweater and chenilled fit the bill perfectly.  The fraying gives my portrait depth and interest, too.

I can see this technique used to create fabric  oceans, waves of grass, even clouds.

Any other ideas?  How would you use homemade chenille?


New Year Reflections–Why I Sew




I certainly DON’T do it for the money.  No one ever got rich making one-of-a-kind items from vintage fabrics or teaching others to sew.  So why did  I spend so much time in 2014 sewing, teaching, blogging, attending  community meet-ups and crafts shows?

It all comes down to the 3 Thank Yous.  I start every sewing class with them:

1) The earth thanks you for sewing.  Every time you reuse materials that have already been produced–a cotton tee shirt, let’s say– you are saving fertilizer, water, energy, and farm land that could be put to better use.  A tee may be inexpensive (even free at times) but the environmental cost of all those tees is very high.

2) The people of the earth thank you for sewing. As a child,  the sewing machine was one of my favorite places to play and experiment.  That makes it seem doubly WRONG that  children in third world sweat shops are making so many of our clothes.  I don’t want that shame on my back, or my conscience.

3) Thank yourself for sewing.  It’s actually good for your brain.  Yes, they have done scientific studies showing  that when  the mid-brain is engaged in crafting, it’s harder to stress or worry.  My loving husband says he already knew that  a long time ago.  He can tell that sewing makes me happy. And despite all the dropped pins and wayward threads, that makes him happy, too.  (Thanks, Bill!)

One more thing as I look back on 2014 and the busy holidays:  Who needs another gift from Macy’s or Target?  When you make things for other people, you’re not only giving them something unique, you’re  also giving them a part of yourself.



So yes,  I am  looking forward to more sewing, teaching, blogging, attending community meet-ups and craft shows  in the New Year.

My first community meet-up is this Sunday at the Scrap Exchange.

The first Basic Sewing Workshop of 2015 is later this month.

In between those events, I’m going to finally find time to finish my sister’s pet quilt, while furiously making hats for two very special people taking chemo.  (You go Girls!)


What about you?  What’s on your sewing list for 2015?

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 www.massageandbirth.com

And for more information about my tool aprons and other reclaimed fabric creations, check out my Etsy shop: www.kikisrewinddesigns.etsy.com


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?


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