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.

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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.

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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.

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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–

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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.
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Unless you had prior knowledge that it was made from a vintage signal flag, you might miss the significance entirely–
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So I used an indelible fine-tip markerto handwrite a large label, which I stitched on the back.
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Yes, handwriting. Nothing is more personal than that–
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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.
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What wonderful stories they tell!
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New Sewing Studio–Finally Taking Shape


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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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


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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.

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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!

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

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

New Tool Aprons Online–Finally!


Ok, I could make them faster.  I could hire someone to help with the sewing or use fewer fabrics, fewer rows of stitching.

But then it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun to make my super-sturdy, vintage fabric tool aprons.

I love that each one is little fabric puzzle that takes time to solve.   The only downside is I run out of inventory sometimes.

But I’ve just listed 4 new tool aprons on my ETSY site.   And here they are:

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1940s barkcloth with an old apron fragment and blue tulip skirt.   I love blue and brown! (Note: This apron sold within hours of posting.  See what I mean about inventory–)

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NYC designer “Vera” silkscreened textiles that were the all the rage in the 60s and 70s.  And who can resist watermelons in July?

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I love this floral fabric from my best friend’s  great grandma’s very best chair.  The white and yellow pop art daisies are also a nice blast from the past.

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And finally, an old bed cover meets a men’s pink denim shirt.  ( I do love  a man in pink!)

Got a favorite?  I do.  But two more aprons are on the sewing table now.  I always love the one I’m working on at the moment the most!

 

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.

Done!

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


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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.

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  • 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.

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

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  • 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.

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

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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!

 

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