Grandma’s Aprons and Doilies Come Together in an Heirloom Collage

My grandmother not only taught me to sew–she taught me that sewing was good for me.  Like her, I’m always happiest with a project (or two) close by.


So this “Busy Hands” pillow cover is a fitting tribute for my grandmother and teacher.

I stitched it together as a thank you for my aunt, who sent me a box of Granny’s handiwork last year.

What a thoughtful gift!

My goal was to use as many bits and pieces of my grandmother’s fabrics and embroidery as possible in the piece.  I started with one of her crocheted–edge hankies.


I quilted it to backing fabric in a green and brown print, (a reclaimed fabric sample).  Once I had my plain canvas (her hankie) , I began to cut up grandma’s handwork and try different ideas.

People always ask me–“How can you cut that?”

Easy.  In the world of vintage fabrics it’s use it or lose it.  Pack grandma’s aprons away in chest, closet or box and they’ll eventually dry rot.  I’d much rather adapt them to enjoy NOW.  Fabric collage is the perfect vehicle.


All the pieces are anchored in place with parallel rows of straight stitches first.  Then I cover raw edges with a tightly spaced machine zig-zag (aka satin) stitch.

Finally, I used my machine to write the words, busy hands.  I’m not good at free motion, so I use little stitches and lots of pivots over light chalk or pencil guide lines.   An additional loop of  decorative brown stitches ending in an appliqued needle ties it all together.

One more step:  ALWAYS label your family heirlooms.  If the story is lost, so is the value.  And you wouldn’t want grandma’s heirlooms to end up at Goodwill–


3 Uses for Old Quilts

Frist a disclaimer: Don’t cut up a vintage family quilt in mint condition. Put it on the bed, hang it on the wall, pass it on to another generation and think of the person who (lovingly) made it.

But lots of quilts come to me ragged, frayed and without a personal connection. Here are 3 uses for vintage quilts I stitched last year:

1) Cover a cushion:

This cotton crazy quilt is the perfect weight for a bench seat

This cotton crazy quilt is the perfect weight for a bench seat

It's tied rather than quilted.  I used the back side of the quilt as the boxing strip.

It’s tied rather than quilted. I used the back side of the quilt as the boxing strip.

Don’t forget to add a zipper so you can wash your cushion cover.

2) Cut out your state, or another shape:

These NC pillows were a big hit at my holiday shows last year.

These NC pillows were a big hit at my holiday shows last year.

First I cut out my state using a pattern purchased on ETSY. I machine quilted it to the pillow background following the lines of the piecing, then covered the edges with a machine satin stitch.


This year I plan use the same technique to make Christmas tree pillows.

3) Cover a tree:

And speaking of trees…

A craft store cone and a piece of wood from my yard stitched into a colorful tree

A craft store cone and a piece of wood from my yard stitched into a colorful tree

To add to the rustic charm, I hand stitched seams on the outside, using gold sewing thread.


These are fun to make and use up lots of small quilt scarps. What do you think?

Any ideas to add to the project list? What do you like to use old quilts?

Kiki’s Rewind Designs on Sale at the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market This Weekend (10/15/16)


I’ll be selling at the Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market Craft Market on Saturday, October 15, 2016, and I have some new Rewind Designs to show off–

1) First is my state applique pillow on linen/cotton with a canvas back.


A great use for old quilt pieces in my collection, this applique also resonates our state’s rural and textile past.


If you like to draw, sketch your state and make a pattern. Or you can do what I did and buy graphics on Etsy.

2) Next, I took that theme (and pattern) into my reclaimed embroidery collection.


These flowers were appliqued onto canvas, then the state shape was cut out and quilted onto off-white burlap. Next, I hand stitched the word “love” in gold metallic thread (since yes, I do love NC).


As you can see, the pillow is unfinished. Lots of sewing to do before Saturday morning–

3) And since one thing usually leads to another in my sewing room, here’s a similar floral collage called “Nest”.


Not sure if I can bear to part with this one (or if I’ll finish it on time), but I will have plenty of my vintage fabric creations (like the tool apron below) at the craft market Saturday. Hope to see you there.

More Barkcloth with Vintage Plant Patches.

More Barkcloth with Vintage Plant Patches.

The Chapel Hill Farmers Market is Outside University Place
201 S. Estes Drive. Hours from 8-noon. (October 15

Labels Matter–Why you Should Always “Sign” your Sewing

Too many stories are lost—
Too many heirlooms end up at thrift stores-
Too many projects created by women come down to us without a name–

Which is why I always label my family gifts and other important sewing project.

For example: this OBX (Outer Banks) pillow made for my beach-loving nephew, BOB.

Unless you had prior knowledge that it was made from a vintage signal flag, you might miss the significance entirely–

So I used an indelible fine-tip markerto handwrite a large label, which I stitched on the back.

Yes, handwriting. Nothing is more personal than that–

I always encourage labels for my sewing students, specially the younger ones who will remember these early accomplishments all their lives. Here are two labels for special dresses made by Klara and Miriam.

What wonderful stories they tell!

Five New Tool Aprons–One New Market

Just listed 5 new pieces in my Etsy shop. And here they are:

Blue Hankie and Pink Seersucker

Blue Hankie and Pink Seersucker

Best Hankie Find EVER!

Best Hankie Find EVER!

Flowerpot Apron Pocket meets Barkcloth and 60s Print

Flowerpot Apron Pocket meets Barkcloth and 60s Print

Old meets New with Veg in Pink

Old meets New with Veg in Pink

More Barkcloth with Vintage Plant Patches.

More Barkcloth with Vintage Plant Patches.

Blue, Brown, Gold, Orange with Appliqued leaves.

Blue, Brown, Gold, Orange with Appliqued leaves.

What to check these pieces out in person? Come to the newly revamped Apex Farmers Market next Saturday, July 23. It’s Christmas in July–so there should be several craft vendors, along with great fruits, veg, flowers, baked goods and cheeses.

This morning I bought okra, tomatoes, tiny little cukes, eggs and blue berries. Delicious, farm fresh and this up and coming market is right down the street from where I live. Check it out!

No More Crooked Patch Pockets–A Technique Learned from Reclaimed Jeans


It’s easy to pin patch pockets on straight–but sewing them on straight is another matter. That’s because the machine presser foot PRESSES the fabric in one direction. If you start out on one pocket corner and sew to the other (the way I was taught) you often end up noticeably higher on the second corner.


Not your fault–but that doesn’t lessen the FRUSTRATION factor.


So work with pockets a lot. My passion is making heavy duty, vintage fabric tool aprons for women. A reclaimed denim patch pocket is almost always part of the design. After ripping many of these off to straighten them–I stumbled on a better way–change your starting point when sewing on a pocket.

Begin stitching at center bottom and sew toward one corner.


The seam indentations on jeans make this easy. On regular fabric use your presser foot as a seam guide.


Sew to the top edge. Pivot and take a few stitched between the seam lines (I like to back stitch here for extra strength). Pivot and sew down (making two rows of stitching).

Repeat at the other corner. Stitch down to the center again and you’re done.


Works ever time on all fabrics with just 3 pins! Try it. Everyone need an extra pocket.


And for a closer look at my signature tool aprons, check out my ETSY shop.

New Sewing Studio–Finally Taking Shape


Pinch me, because after decades of wishing for my own DEDICATED sewing space, the dream is finally coming true.

I’ve always thought garages were wasted on cars. My half is (quickly) becoming a studio.


My new sewing studio will have lots of natural light and storage on the back–a big laundry sink for fabric dyeing, too.

The elevated floor makes heating and cooling easier. Floor covering will be laminate–which means no more pins in carpets or thread clogged vacuum cleaners. If you sew every day, you need a floor you can sweep.


Yes, I know I’m incredibly lucky. Most of us carve out sewing spaces in bedrooms, guest rooms and kitchens. I’ve done this all my life.

But if I can think of one thing that made me an avid sewer–it was having the old Singer set up in my childhood bedroom. Bad day at Jr. High? Come home and zig-zag it away.

That’s why I always tell my beginning sewing student to find a place where they can leave their machines at ready. Don’t let setup drain your creative energy away.

So what’s your favorite sewing spot?

2 Favorite Causes Rolled into 1–Kikis Rewind Designs at Raulston Blooms

leaves_atscrapYou only have to look at my rewind designs to know I’m an avid gardener.  Flowers, fruit,  leaves and trees turn up everywhere. background_leaves

And because I’m an avid gardener, I’m a big supporter of  JC Raulson Arboretum in Raleigh.  Their plants and programs have shaped much of my garden and my garden education.

So I’m always happy to show and sale at JCRA.booth_aprons


Find me and my super sturdy garden tool aprons, hats and more at Raulston Blooms, a garden festival for all ages.  This Saturday, 9-4 at JCRA on Beryl Road in Raleigh.  See you there!


Doll Making with the Girls–A Refresher Course in Why I SEW

Some days my love of sewing is a bit overwhelming–all those tangled threads, dropped pins and unfinished projects seem to be going nowhere.   That’s when I call some friends and set up a date for doll making.

Doll making reminds me of how my sewing began (Barbie clothes) and why it continues at such a fever pace.  Think of the adult coloring book craze transferred to fabric.  Sewing is essentially PLAY.


So here’s to a houseful of girls (ages 10 and up), two sturdy sewing machines,  a well used pattern and a bin of old doll clothes.   What a great way to start a new year of creating with fabric.


13-year-old Klara made this doll in an afternoon.  Klara’s lady is wearing a very chic ensemble from 1930s doll wardrobe I stumbled on in an antique store.  Fortunately, there were hats in wardrobe.  We didn’t have time to make embroidery floss hair in our first meeting.


Doll maker Miriam also shopped the 1930s wardrobe.  We used fabric pens to make the doll faces, but embroidery is another option if you have the time.    (Note: Pal Megan took her doll home to hand-stitch the face.  That’s too much sewing for one day, and why she missed the photo shoot.)


Our pattern came from a tried and true (out for print) book from my collection.  You can find other books and patterns, but I wouldn’t recommend working on a smaller scale.  Smaller patterns would be too hard to turn to the right side–which is time-consuming at best.


Another thing I like about this book–instructions have you  sew around the doll shape before cutting it out.  I find that much easier than the other way around

Be sure to have chopsticks, dowels and other tools for turning small arms and legs.     And we used floral wire in the necks so heads didn’t flop .  A white pipe cleaner would work here too.


Here’s my doll, Jessica, made from the same pattern over several days,  several years ago.  Note the embroidered face and stitched yarn hair.


And speaking of creative play–Klara made this dog pincushion for me in the style of Picasso.    Eat your heart out Pablo.


What about you?  What sparks your creativity when you need a reboot?




Celebrate your State! Two Vintage Fabric Gifts that Remind of Home



Don’t you love it when a special textile finally gets a good home–

I’d held on to a vintage map of Virginia tea towel for years, because my sister raised her children there.   Finally this Christmas I decided it needed to become a stocking for my grown niece who lives in DC.

Since the map was laid out horizontally and a stocking is vertical, I decided to cut and quilt my towel.  The red and gray plaid from my stash added a festive tough, but the end result was too fragmented to read.  (Can you say “busy” ) I fixed that by appliquéing a large piece of the towel across the center of the stocking to give the eye a place to read and rest.


Everything is stitched to heavy canvas using one of my favorite techniques–channel quilting.  I serged the stocking seams, then straight stitched the bottom seam several times–stockings need to be strong.  Be sure to leave extra canvas at the top to form a nice wide cuff.

Oh yea, the big red button is hot-glued.

My other grown niece is setting up housekeeping far from her Mississippi roots, so I decided to send her a favorite Southern cookbook, along with this custom potholder.  2states_2

The fabric was an Etsy find, part of a vintage “Our States Quilt Kit” that was never finished.  I use old towels for padding in the center of the hot pad.  Stripes on the back make great seam lines.  These potholders are fun  and quick to make!


One more tip:  covering curved edges with bias binding is a lot easier than working with a square.


What about you?  What special gifts did you make this holiday season?  Please share.

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