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?

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.

Girl Scout Fun All Over Again–What to do with Your Vintage Patches


Talk about Girl Power!

I remember working hard to earn these badges, then proudly hand-sewing them to the green sash so I could wear it to school.

And it felt good all over again when I pulled my vintage scout patches out of storage and started creating new designs with them a few weeks ago,


Here are my “Good Scout Wristlets”.  They combine vintage Pendleton Wool (a lucky find in just the right color), reclaimed zippers, brown bark cloth and  scout badges, of course.

A few construction notes:

Yes, I washed the wool.  It was musty  smelling so I threw it in my front loader and dryer.  It didn’t felt.  Not enough water for that.


I’m using interfacing to give the bag body.  Apply it before the zipper.  I like to hold the interfacing in place with my quilters spray, then catch the interfacing in the seam.  I use applique scissors to trim the excess right down to the stitching.


And these bags are fully lined.  I apply the lining pieces to the zipper seam before stitching the sides and bottom.  The rest of the process it pretty intuitive.  Just leave an opening  to turn the bag to the right side.   Hand stitch it closed to finish.

No more hiding those childhood accomplishments in the attic!   Old scout patches are COOL and should be used.  How are you using yours?badges4

PS. These Good Scout Wristlets aren’t in my Etsy shop yet.  But I plan to have a few for sale at the Western Wake Farmers Market with this Saturday morning (10/17).  Stop by my tent and check them out.


Two Upcycled Sewing Projects Inspire

I get the best ideas at the Scrap Exchange in Durham. Our monthly community meet-ups, 2nd Sunday Sewing, draw  a variety of people with the most interesting projects.


Here’s an applique coverlet for a little girl’s room.  I love the bright colors, the multiple circles and the way mom is using raw edges in her appliques.


What a good way to upcycle nursery linens when the child moves to a larger bed. What a great “Just Do It!” style.


And here’s pal Karen, a Sewing Sunday regular and a very talented mixed media artist, with her altered fabric flag.   Can you tell she volunteers at the Scrap Exchange sorting TRIMS?


Karen lined  her wall hanging but the back is open in case the mood strikes her to add more embellishments.  (I bet it will.Trim is so tempting and the Scrap has tons!)


Great use of mixed vintage buttons, too,  don’t you think?

If you’d like to attend 2nd Sunday Sewing, the next meet up is September 13 (2015)  in the Scrap Exchange Design Center from 2-6.   Space is limited, so get there early.   And come prepared to be inspired.  I always am–

A Family Heirloom Evolves–My Pet Quilt is FINALLY Done!

Woof/Meow Quilt about to be wrapped and shipped!!

Woof/Meow Quilt about to be wrapped and shipped!!

First let me say that I am in NO WAY a traditional quilter.  I don’t have the temperament for precise cutting and piecing.  Big projects (like quilts) aren’t my forte either.

So when my sister said she wanted a family pet quilt, I tackled the project intuitively.

Since I  like to work small, I began with pet portrait squares.  These individual portraits became my sister’s birthday and Christmas gifts over several years.

When I’d completed 3-4 squares, I stitched them to backing fabric.  My sis hung the quilt on her wall and pinned on new squares until all the slots were filled.

Lucy, in the upper center,  was the first square I created.

Lucy, in the upper center, was the first square I created.

Then for her recent birthday, I appliqued all the squares down, added  batting, backing and stitched all the layers together.


A few tips if you want to tackle your own pet portrait “quilt”:

I’m hooked on Dritz temporary quilt adhesive.  It held the portrait parts in place while I stitched and  anchors all the layers for finishing.

I prefer to start small and work out. You can always turn your parts into pillows or smaller wall pieces if you run out of steam.    You can always scale up if imagination takes flight.  In other words, it’s ok to make a beginning if you don’t know how the project will end.

Also, too much in history doesn’t have a name on it.  Always sign and date your work to give it more meaning for the people who will inherit.

Finally, what ever you create, make it yours.  The important thing is not HOW you do it, but THAT you do it.

Happy sewing.

Click here for more info on making portraits with fabric.


Remake Dated Counted Cross Stitch with Reverse Applique


Back in the 80s, “country” style counted cross stitch on linen was all the rage.

I completed 5 projects before tiring of counting  threads.  (Can you say “tedious”?)

Before long,  I had also tried of those limited pallet  “country” looking pieces.  Most ended up in a box under the bed.

Here’s how I decided to remake a pair of them, by literally  breaking out of the frame.


  • Pin needlework face down on an interesting piece of fabric.  Working from the back, sew around the piece.
  • Carefully separate the two layers, cut the top layer and trim (I use applique scissors) to the stitching.


  • Working from the front, zig-zag around the raw edge TWICE.


  • Next, the fun starts.  Embellish your fabric “frame” to your heart’s content.  First, I sewed rows around the needle work, using my presser foot as a guide.  Then I  cut it out.   I appliqued and channel quilted my piece onto a second fabric–cool tulips.  Next, I added vintage rick-rack and 70 trim.  Words are ok, too.  I like to use stencils and fabric pins.  (The jury is still out on adding words to this piece.)
  •  I bound the piece with bias strips of vintage mattress ticking.   It still looked a little too 80s country, so I zig-zaged some torn strips of metallic drapery material around the edge.
  • Finally,  I went crazy with plain old jute twine, zig-zaging it around the needlework and looping it at the top for my stick hanger.


And here’s the final result, reclaimed cross stitch hung on our living room wall–


This technique would also work for any old unfinished or damaged embroidery or needle point.  Any other ideas for  reframing with reverse applique?


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!


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?


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