summer fruit

There's something about watermelon that just says "summer" like no other fruit does.

I bought this vintage 1940s-50s fabric on Ebay last week and it arrived yesterday. Love the colors! I make a lot of fruit-themed pillows so I'm always looking for interesting vintage cotton prints with fruit. This was the first I'd ever seen with watermelons.

And I found some cute watermelon slice buttons at Hancock's store closing sale for half price. Unfortunately I can't show you them because they seem to be lost somewhere in my studio. (Note to self—clean studio). I think I see a theme developing here :)

And thanks to Jen at Indie Fixx for featuring one of my vintage aprons last Saturday along with new aprons crafted by my friends Carrie at Sommer Designs and Jennifer at Textile Fetish.


embroidery pics and questions about t-shirts

I've decided not to do a Stitch School post today. I'm sure you're all out celebrating the holiday or picnicking or something other than sitting at your computer. At least I hope you are. We're finishing up planting the vegetable garden today and doing various outdoor chores.

But in case you have stopped by today I'll leave you with some pretty pictures of an embroidered table scarf with what are probably thousands of French knots. No, I didn't count them but just look at it. This scarf isn't in perfect shape but I didn't pay a lot for it and the embroidery is just extraordinary.

There are a couple more pictures on my Flickr page (click the photo). It's all French knots except for the leaves and daisy petals, packed very tightly together to form a solid mass.

I also found this very cool example of spiderweb flowers on Ebay. This is what they look like when you leave some of the underlaying structure showing:

spiderweb flowers

And finally, I have some questions from readers about embroidering on t-shirts that I can't answer. So I'm turning it over to you guys:

I would like to embroider something on a t-shirt for my daughter. Can you recommend a stabilizer suitable for this type of project?Anita

I recently embroidered a t-shirt for a toddler. Do you typically put some sort of lining on the back of the embroidery? I used some back stitching so there is quite a bit of thread on the back side. I have considered using iron-on interfacing as a backing but am worried that it will cause visible lumpiness when the shirt is worn.Andrea

Can anyone recommend stabilizers or give any general advice about embroidering on t-shirts? Thanks in advance (and thanks from Anita and Andrea, too)!



Vicki, of Pattern Bee and turkey feathers fame, has a picture up of the towels she embroidered using my diner chicken patterns. And I commented that I should show a picture of the pillow I did, forgetting that I already had shown the embroidery and fabrics in a previous post. Last August - yikes. I finished it some time during the winter. I often have pillows in various states of completion and it takes a while to finish them sometimes.

But I never followed up to show you the finished pillow.

chicken pillow

This time, I stuck to my original plan and didn't make any changes to the design. The only thing I'd change now would be to make the outer borders (the chicken print) wider but the pillow is already 20x20 and the next standard size is 27x27—that's pretty big. I made this from the original stamped-for-embroidery towel and the design was set diagonally on the corner so I had to use it that way on the pillow, too. It took up more space than I would have liked.

You can find a tracing of this pattern (and a few others) for sale here. And don't forget to use coupon code STITCH SCHOOL when you check out for 25% off your pattern purchase. Good until the end of this month!


Studio Friday: May's Studio Treat!

Treat yourself to something your heart desires, maybe some chocolate or flowers or new art supplies... a nice little something (no spending a fortune). Celebrate yourself !!

salt water taffy

Salt water taffy. Licorice swirl. I have a strange addiction to this stuff even though I'm trying to eat healthier. So I bought just a dollars worth and when it's gone, it's gone :)

More studio treats here.

Happy first official weekend of summer!


recent finds

It's been a while since I've had something to show for Thrift Thursday. I don't go thrifting much during the winter and the local shops don't have high turnover so it's best to not go too often. Saturday was cool and not a good day for working in the garden so we hit the road and visited some of the old favorites. I think I did pretty well.

My husband spotted a tray of silver (Wm Rogers silver plate) and I liked the iced tea spoons and serving pieces but wasn't sure I wanted all of it. But, at $8 for the whole thing, how could I resist?


These are fun—chicken hotpads with red fabric combs and button eyes! Not completely sure they're vintage but the fabric looks like it could be feedsack cotton. Just $2.75 each.


Two striped linen towels made in Poland and with their labels and store tags (Gee Bee, a department store that started as a one-room shop in 1906 in Johnstown, PA) still attached—sold originally for 22 cents! They cost me $3 each.

striped towels

And an original signed print of a Parisian street scene in a white painted frame. Written in pencil across the bottom 35 Paris - Eglise St. Pierre de Montmartre. $5


See more vintage treasures and show us your vintage finds at:

Thrift Thursday!. Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr


my turn

Having been tagged by Charlotte, here are seven somethings about me. I'm not sure how interesting they are, but here goes.

1) I may be the only person on the planet who hates Starbucks coffee. They roast their beans too dark and the resulting coffee tastes like crap. No wonder everyone orders their drinks full of sweeteners, creamers, etc. It's to cover the taste :)

2) I love jewelry and have several friends who are very talented jewelry designers but I rarely wear anything more than my wedding band and simple earrings. That doesn't stop me from buying jewelry but, mostly, I just like to look at the pieces I've collected and admire their craftsmanship.

3) I've never been able to choose between being a city girl or a country girl. I grew up in a city and have lived in several others, but I've spent lots of time in the country, too. Some of my best memories are of the summers I spent with my grandmother when I was 14 and 15. Luckily, I've never really had to choose. I live in the country now, but it's a short drive to both Philadelphia and NYC so I have the best of both worlds!

4) I don't have any children. Sometimes I think "what if?" but for the most part I'm happy with my decision to remain childfree.

5) Like Charlotte, I had my ears pierced the old-fashioned way, by a friends mother in her kitchen. Ice, sewing needle, potato. I got kind of light-headed after the first ear so had to lie on their living room floor for the second one. When I had my second set of holes done, I did it at the mall. It happened so fast that I didn't have time to feel faint.

6) I have never traveled outside of the U.S. Now that I'm finally getting a passport, maybe I'll actually get to do it. I've been drooling over Tara's wonderful photos from her recent trip to Tuscany, and Italy sounds like a definite possibility.

7) I'm not a typical girly-girl. I don't get excited by shoes (and would actually rather not wear them at all), am not so fond of shopping (except for vintage, of course!), and don't wear makeup (or not much anyway). I only read fashion magazines when I get my hair cut. I'm an advertiser's worse nightmare :)

Most of my friends will kill me if I tag them, so I'm breaking the rules and not tagging anyone in particular. Feel free to take up the challenge if you like. If you're new to blogging it's a good way to let people know a little more about you. I've found so many kindred spirits online, mostly through something they said that spoke to me.


Stitch School: Up and Down Buttonhole

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Up and Down Butonhole Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.


new patterns

A big thank you to everyone who's taken the embroidery poll I placed in the sidebar a couple of months ago—all 246 of you! I was trying to get a sense of what people are looking for and whether I needed to change my focus with my own patterns. Based on those results:

34% of you don't mind tracing your own patterns
33% have no preference
17% only purchase iron-on transfers
15% like to buy packaged kits with supplies included

and from the comments of my testers (thanks to you, too), I'm going to stick with my original plan. For now.

The patterns I'll be selling are ones that you'll have to trace yourself. After I investigate the feasibility of iron-on transfer patterns, I may switch to that option. It's the same amount of work for me but if it adds a lot to the cost of producing them —and thereby the purchase price—I may decide not to go in that direction.

Given that I'm a one-person operation working out of a spare bedroom in my home, it's very unlikely that I'll ever be able to offer things in kit form. Sorry to those of you who like that option.

So, without further ado, the patterns are up! Just six to start—with more on the way as I get time to package and list them on the website. The amount of sheets in each pattern varies, but each will arrive in a plastic zip-top sleeve with a basic stitch guide. Some patterns include a copy of the original manufacturer's directions (if they were included with the original project I purchased). And yes, these are all traced from stamped-for-embroidery projects in my collection—everything from tea towels to baby bibs—and designs that were never available as printed patterns!

As an extra thank you to my Stitch School "students" and blog readers, take 25% off your pattern order until the end of this month. Just enter the words STITCH SCHOOL when you check out and the discount will be applied. If you're planning to order more than one and will be paying with Paypal, I can send you an invoice with reduced shipping. If you're paying with a credit card I'll reduce the shipping for you when I process your card.


the girls approve

This past weekend was a whirlwind of outdoor activities—there's so much to do this time of year. The vegetable garden is mapped out and the paths laid out in preparation for planting some of the early things (like lettuces and spinach) later this week. The lawn got mowed for the first time. The strawberry patch is weeded and straw put down between the plants to keep more weeds out. One of our redbud trees died over the winter and we bought a dogwood to replace it. And we ripped out some horrible bushes near our back patio, something we'd wanted to do for years, and bought a small tree to put in it's place.

And I washed the tile floor of our screened porch and started to put out some of the summer things—like the hammock and chair cushions. The girls tried them out right away and they appear to meet with their approval.

the girls

They'll spend a lot of time out here as it gets warmer. As will I. I wonder if they're dreaming about summer?


Stitch School: Portuguese Stem Stitch

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Portuguese Stem Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.


vintage handkerchief pillows

About a month ago I got an email from Donna who had recently posted about a shopping bag full of old hankies that were her mothers and grandmothers. She didn’t know what to do with them. Robbie, one of her blog readers and also one of mine, commented and referred her to my post about hankies. Thanks Robbie!

After some discussion in which I agreed to make four pillows for her, Donna sent me the hankies—all 144 of them—and I got to work. First up was a good soaking and washing. I figure that any hankies that don’t make it intact through the washing/drying process aren’t fit to make pillows from. Not that I expect my pillows to be thrown around or become the weapon of choice in pillow fights, but I don’t want them to fall apart either.

I lost about 20 of them along the way. And lots more have stains that didn’t wash out or holes in the corners. That’s OK—I’ll cut out the damaged sections and use them for sachets. There were still plenty of good ones left for pillows.

Donna didn’t give me too much guidance, although some customers do and that's fine. One was to be for her son so it shouldn’t be too feminine; the others could be as girly as I wanted them to be. She liked purple.

So, here’s what I came up with:

From a hanky with flower bouquets in the corners, I cut it into quarters and reassembled it so the edges faced inward. I added some yellow vintage buttons (in the center of one of the flowers) and a border of new coral/white floral cotton.

vintage handkerchief pillow

From a hanky with a bouquet of roses tied with a blue ribbon in one corner, I cut it in half diagonally and layered it over another hanky with a crocheted pink and blue edging. A turquoise and pink vintage button stack and two coordinating fabrics complete the design.

vintage handkerchief pillow

This was the most challenging and also my favorite design. I took a more masculine hanky with autumn leaves in gray and orange, added a border of orange and red striped cotton, a sprinkling of orange buttons in one corner, and finished up with a vintage gray and white print outer border. There’s no getting around the fact that hankies are feminine by nature, but I think I succeeded in not going too girly with this one.

vintage handkerchief pillow

Last but not least…the very purple one. From a hanky with bunches of violets, I cut it into quarters and reassembled it, added a purple-striped border and another of purple polka dots, and kept it from being "too" purple with the addition of eight green buttons in the same shade as the background green of the hanky.

vintage handkerchief pillow

As of yesterday, they’re on their way to their new home. Thanks Donna—hope you love 'em! Next up, one of my embroidered bird pillows for my friend Jenny to give as a baby gift. I planned the design (fabrics and buttons) last night and also started on the embroidery. Yesterday afternoon (which was gorgeous by the way and almost 80 degrees) I photographed lots of vintage goodies for my web site so look for more vintage aprons, linens, buttons and trims in the next week or so.


Stitch School: Spider Web

Stitch School has moved to it's very own space on the web! You'll now find the Spider Web Stitch post here. Comments are now closed on this post; if you'd like to leave a comment please do so on the new one.


We're not in Kansas (city) anymore

An occasional post about quilting

But if we were and it was 1928 we would have been present when a quilt phenomenon got it's start. Beginning that fall, The Kansas City Star and it's sister newspapers, The Weekly Star and The Star Farmer began publishing quilt patterns in a ready-to-use format. Instead of sending away for mail-order patterns, quilters could clip and save favorite patterns for later use. Patterns printed in these newspapers were distributed throughout Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, and Colorado and, in later years, as far away as North Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas. This widespread network allowed quilters from urban and rural areas to share patterns.

Nell Snead, The Star's woman's and fashion editor was responsible for finding the patterns, which were submitted by local quilters and newspaper readers. The patterns were then professionally created by a series of designers including Ruby Short McKim (an art needlework editor for Better Homes & Gardens), Eveline Foland (who added an Art Deco touch) and The Stars' own fashion illustrator, Edna Marie Dunn.

As you can imagine, it's rare to find clippings of these patterns. I bought a bagful of Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt blocks a few years ago and was thrilled to find an original pattern cut from this newspaper inside. Dated 1931, and you can see Eveline Foland's signature in the corner.

The French Bouquet quilt pattern

By the time the last pattern (Fan of Many Colors) was published in May of 1961, the newspaper had published more than 1000 patterns. Lots of traditional pieced patterns, of course. But also special patterns for appliqued and embroidered quilts, including several series of designs to be sewn together when completed: Santa's Parade Quilt (1929), Memory Bouquet Quilt (1930), Horn of Plenty Quilt (1932) and Happy Childhood Quilt (1932).

Pickledish.com , which seems to be the official site for patterns, has downloadable paper patterns for a few of the designs here. You can occasionally find them on Ebay, both originals for serious collectors (i.e. expensive) and reprinted copies for quilters. If you just want the patterns there are a number of books that reprint them, and you can find them at The Kansas City Store.

Some links to photos of quilts based on Eveline Foland designs:
Memory Bouquet; published in twenty installments in the Kansas City Star and later in the Detroit News, where it was renamed Flower Garden. Another photo of a quilt using the same designs.

Donkey Quilt, designed to commemorate democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide victory in the 1932 election.


vintage transfers and buttons

Do you know of a way to make new transfers from old embroidery patterns? Or do I just need to hand trace old patterns every time I want to use them? We got a bunch of old embroidery patterns at a garage sale and we would really like to figure out a way to use them that doesn't require squinting through fabric to trace a pattern if possible! Thanks!Sarah

Unfortunately there isn't really a simple way to do it. But, with the right equipment and a bit of computer savvy you can try this: First scan your original transfer pattern. Open the file in a drawing program (I use Photoshop) and clean up (or trace over) the lines—old patterns almost never scan cleanly. Print them out on inkjet transfer paper that you can purchase at office supply stores, then iron on to your fabric. This won't give you the same results as older iron-on transfers because it doesn't wash out, but it's the closest you can get at home.

The vintage buttons are cute, but I don't know how you tell if one is vintage or where to look for them.Appliejuice

I could probably write a whole post about this subject (maybe I will!) but basically you get a feel for what's vintage by experience. Buttons on cards are easier to identify—the graphics look old-fashioned, the manufacturers aren't in business anymore (or were swallowed up by larger companies), the prices printed on the cards are very low (LOL-anything that sold for 10 cents is definitely vintage!). Early vintage buttons are often attached to their cards with string instead of staples. After you've looked at enough buttons you'll be able to tell.

And once you start looking for them, you'll see them everywhere. I often find plastic baggies full of them at flea markets, jars and tins (like grandma used to have) in antique stores, cards of them on tables at garage sales. Ebay is a good place to look at buttons and you'll see a lot of collector buttons that sell for very high prices. Buttons made of bakelite (an early plastic with very distinct colors) are a good example of this. Look in the Vintage Sewing subcategory of Collectibles.

I'm sorry that I don't always have time to answer your email questions personally, but I often turn your queries into blog posts. So, if you've asked me a question and I haven't answered, check back here. There, I think I've finally caught up :)


rick rack aprons

I haven’t had time these past few months to participate in Amy Karol’s Tie One On apron challenges, but I always look at the new gallery of submissions when she gets them posted.

The March/April theme was rick rack and there are some amazing apron submissions. Like this from Amy (love the vintage fabric and giant button!):

And these wonderful rick rack roses from Chelle:

So many pretty aprons that it was hard to choose just two for this post. But you can see them all here.


May Day

Spring has been a long time coming this year and the only flowers we have so far are a bunch of rather droopy daffodils. So, to find a May Day bouquet for today, I turned to my box of vintage handkerchiefs and found this lovely bunch of tiny blue violets.

But I must gather knots of flowers.
And buds and garlands gay,
For I'm to be Queen o' the May, mother,
I'm to be Queen o' the May."

—Alfred Lord Tennyson

Happy May Day everyone!