Q is for Quilter

Designs Worth Doing, Ruby Short McKim

by Martha in Patterns, Vintage Finds

Mickie asked about other individual RSM patterns, so here is a newspaper design from 1926. Although I love these butterflies, I can’t imagine wanting to stitch them in all white, or even with “spots of color” as suggested below. I would probably stitch the whole butterfly in jewel tones.

Nothing is more nearly a universal favorite among needleworkers than butterfly designs. They have been fashioned of finest lace, embroidered on sheerest mull or brilliantly blazoned in colorful silks. Here are three graceful butterfly motifs that may be traced onto guest towels, scarves, pillow slips, girl’s frocks, and aprons — either as separate motifs or to use with flower designs. They are readily adapted to either all white, madeira style, or to use with color spots of blue, yellow, orange and black.

This is a McKim Studios catalog from the period. I often think how wonderful it would be if one could order stuff from vintage catalogs, and in this case you actually can. Some of these patterns are available at the McKim Studios web site, which is maintained by Ruby Short McKim’s granddaughter. The thumbnails will be readable if you continue clicking on the images until they are full size.

Winner — Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads

by Martha in Random Things



The lucky winner of the book giveaway is Commenter #28, Benne. Thank you everyone for participating, and for your nice comments about Cirilia’s book. This was the biggest response I’ve ever received for a giveaway.

Please check back in December when the usual monthly apron giveaway will resume.

A Gift Bib That Will Do for Thanksgiving or Christmas — Ruby Short McKim, 1925

by Martha in Patterns

You are probably familiar with the wonderful series quilts published by Ruby Short McKim and McKim Studios. Perhaps less familiar are the individual patterns which were published weekly in various newspapers. Here’s a cute embroidery pattern that caught my eye, because that’s an awfully big turkey he’s wrangling.




Here’s a design for a gift bib or tray cloth for the youngster that certainly smacks of the season. Being as his majesty, the turkey, is just as popular for Christmas as Thanksgiving, this could be used as a gift for either occasion.

Where time is precious, designs like this are hour-savers. There is sure to be a scrap of some material right size in the scrap bag; transfer the pattern through carbon to the material selected and embroider in “turkey red.”


Mariner’s Compass Doll Quilt

by Martha in Quilts

I can hardly believe I finally finished this little quilt, which has been hanging around here for about 15 years. I had quilted about two-thirds of the top with a diagonal grid, and I just wasn’t happy with it, so I ripped out the quilting and it took another 4 years for me to pick it up again. Although I had planned an all-over quilting pattern again, I changed my mind and settled on a circular pattern, which meant I didn’t have to worry so much about the wonkiness of my blocks and the fact that the angles don’t line up. This is a fairly challenging pattern to make in this size, and I think I could probably do a better job now that I’ve had more experience working with miniature blocks.

The pattern is from Mini Quilts From Traditional Designs, by Corcoran and Wilkinson, and I tried to make mine look just like the one in the book, which is something I don’t normally do now. The top was made when I first began using vintage fabric — the brown and tan background fabrics are reproduction, and the compass circles are vintage. Several of the prints in the compasses and the sawtooth border are much more contemporary than the period represented by the repro backgrounds, but I didn’t know much about vintage fabrics back then and was just thinking about the colors. The compass circles were hand pieced with a running stitch (I don’t do paper piecing), and then appliquéd onto the background squares.

Mariner’s Compass Doll Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2014
hand pieced, appliquéd & hand quilted
17″ x 17″


Book Giveaway — Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads: A Modern Knitter’s Guide to Discovering and Exploring Style

by Martha in Other Needlework

This week we are celebrating the much anticipated release of Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads, written by the lovely and talented Cirilia Rose. In addition to being a published author, Cirilia is a Brand Ambassador for New Zealand Mill Woolyarns, developing and promoting singular yarns for hand knitters, and she also happens to be the girlfriend of my son, Elliott.

In Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads, Rose takes readers behind the scenes of her design process, showing them how she curates and organizes ideas and translates them into knitwear designs. Through 25 projects that fall into three categories—Magpies (accessories for- the small amounts of precious yarns that knitters inevitably collect), Homebodies (garments for time spent close to home), and Nomads (garments to wear when venturing out into the world)—Rose shares her modern aesthetic and invites readers to develop their own.

Magpies is brimming with adorable projects, which you can check out on Cirilia’s Ravelry page, but you’ll definitely want to buy the book anyway, because there’s so much more to it than just the patterns.

Leave a comment below to enter the giveaway for this gorgeous book — even if you’re a quilter and have never knit a stitch, I bet you know a knitter who would love to receive this book as a gift. The winner will be announced on Saturday, November 15.

Photography by Jared Flood
Cirilia is modeling in photos 2 and 7









Emily’s Halloween Costume — Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan

by Martha in Random Things

I promised I would show photos of Emily in her Desperately Seeking Susan jacket, so here she is in her wig and accessories with her best friend, Gianna. This is their third year dressing as various Madonnas, and there’s no end in site since there are a ton of different Madonna looks.

I wrote about making the jacket in an earlier post.






Blogger’s Quilt Festival — Snowball and 9-Patch

by Martha in Quilts

I love participating in the Blogger’s Quilt Festival because it gives me an opportunity to highlight some favorite quilts from when I first started blogging and had very few readers. This quilt has a sad story with a happy ending, which I am just going to copy here from my original post in 2009.

This was the first quilt I made from vintage fabric. The prints are more 40’s and 50’s so the colors are brighter than some of my other quilts, and it’s entirely hand pieced, which is unusual for this pattern since it’s an easy pattern to sew on the machine. When I began to seriously quilt again about 8 years ago, I wanted to hand piece everything. When it came time for the quilting, I did a couple of rows and decided I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the piecing. I thought about the church ladies in Ohio who had finished the quilting on my first quilt, Morning Glory in the 70’s (and several quilts for my mother and mother-in-law), and decided to contact them. Mrs. H responded that her group was still quilting and they would be pleased to finish my quilt. I packed up the quilt and mailed it the next day. About a month later I got it back and was so excited to take a look.

Well, friends, you would not have believed what I found. The poor church ladies must have been really old by then because the quilt was a complete mess — the stitches looked like a child had done them, there were really dark pencil lines from tracing the flower template, and the muslin back was covered with little blood stains. I was devastated! After I recovered from the shock, I started the process of taking out all of their quilting and doing it over — one block at a time. Here’s what I used: seam ripper, tweezers, a little cup of diluted Oxyclean, Q-tips, and a hairdryer — it took about 6 months to complete. The good thing that happened was that I began to enjoy hand quilting, which is now my favorite part of the quilt-making process.

Mrs. H and her friends were paid, and I never told them that I was unhappy with the result. They had done such beautiful work when they were younger, and it was sad that their vision had obviously deteriorated.

I discovered after this quilt was done that one of my pieced blocks and two of the quilted flowers are turned the wrong direction. I couldn’t really fix the pieced block, but I didn’t change the flowers either which is kind of strange since I’m usually sort of a perfectionist about this type of thing. For some reason, it just doesn’t bother me at all.

9-Patch and Snowball
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2001
hand pieced, hand quilted
70″ x 80″




Desperately Seeking Susan Jacket

by Martha in Other Needlework

For this year’s Halloween costume, my daughter, Emily, requested the iconic Madonna jacket from the movie, Desperately Seeking Susan. Recreating this jacket was one the most fun Halloween garments I’ve ever made, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

Finding just the right fabrics was tricky, because Emily and I are kind of obsessive about wanting her costumes to look as much like the original as possible. The boucle fabric was a really good color match, and it has a lot of texture to it. To simulate the gold threads in the original jacket, I rubbed some fine gold glitter into the fabric. The collar and cuffs are printed stretch denim and the pyramid is a loopy textured gold fabric. The pyramid and the scroll edging were embroidered by hand — the eye and the scroll lettering are fused appliqué, and the rays around eye are machine stitched. The sequin trim is attached with hot glue. I used an 80s jacket pattern with a shawl collar, and then made the necessary changes to shorten and shape the jacket bottom, as well as shorten and cuff the sleeves.

I’ll try to get some photos of Emily in her completed costume.




Desperately Seeking Susan Madonna

October Apron Winner — Aprons Are Nice Gifts

by Martha in Random Things

Congratulations to Sarah (commenter #25), who is the winner of the October apron. Unfortunately, there is not going to be a November apron because I am swamped with other projects until the end of November. Hopefully, there will be a Christmas apron for December, which will be my 6 year blog anniversary.


This is a newspaper apron pattern from 1960 for a trio of organdy hostess aprons, each made from one yard of 36″ wide fabric. The 30″ wide apron skirt seems a little skimpy to me, but you could make it wider using a yard of modern fabric. I do like the decorative edge, but I would want to make a deep zig-zag hem facing rather than the narrow hem that’s called for here, and that would take more fabric. Actually, I think a retro organdy hostess apron would be a nice gift, but you could also make this pattern in plain cotton.



Lily of the Valley Embroidery Design for Baby Frock

by Martha in Patterns

This newspaper pattern was designed by Eleanor Norris and published in 1912 on the women’s page entitled “Work and Play for the Idle Hour.”  It reminds me of the dresses my sisters and I wore when we were babies. They were made in the Philippines out of lovely pastel cottons using techniques we would now call heirloom sewing, but which were very common at the time — tiny tucks, hemstitching, and sweet floral embroideries like these lilies of the valley.

The directions call for padding the satin stitch on the flowers and dots, with vines in outline stitch. I really should try this, because I found an entire bolt of handkerchief linen at the Goodwill that would be perfect for this little frock.




Lilies of the valley are the blossoms used in this design for an exceedingly pretty and simple little frock for the little baby. The design may be used either on a long or short dress, and may be combined with a narrow lace or hemstitching, as one desires. Fine nainsook or handkerchief linen should be selected for the dainty little garment, and the embroidery is to be executed in fine working cotton of a soft finish. Pad the little flowers slightly and work in satin stitch. The vine connecting them should be done in outline stitch. The dots are also to be padded and worked in satin stitch. The little frock may be finished about the lower edge either with buttonholes, scallops or it may be hemstitched.



October Apron Giveaway

by Martha in Random Things

Several readers have mentioned that they couldn’t imagine cooking in my aprons. Actually, an apron in my house gets a real workout, but I don’t mind when they get a little soft and faded from many washings. My new aprons sometimes begin their lives as hostess aprons, strictly for entertaining, until a few “accidents” happen, and they begin that inevitable move down the apron ladder to an everyday cooking . . . then gardening . . . cleaning . . . and finally a painting apron. And that’s okay, because there are always new aprons to be made.

It was nice to take a break from all my other crazy projects to sew the October apron, even if it is a little late. This is a 1970s pattern from Betsey Johnson, made out of an Indian cotton tablecloth (in the spirit of the 70s).

If you’d like to win this apron, let me know in a comment below. I will select a random winner from among readers/commenters on Wednesday morning, October 15.






Housewifely Wisdom — Embroidery Patterns From 1920s Newspapers

by Martha in Patterns

Yesterday I posted Housewifely Wisdom pages with appliqué designs, but today it’s all about embroidery. First, a basket design for a bedspread, but I like the alternate idea of using these designs for the covers on porch chairs. Next is an apron that is supposed to work up quickly, but I would probably substitute colorful bias tape for the blanket stitching on the edges. Last is a quaint little maid, suitable for embroidery or appliqué, but with a warning. Click to enlarge the images.



Place this pattern in the center of the spread of unbleached muslin, which is inexpensive and especially nice for summer use. Work all of the circles in satin stitch, the radiating lines in single stitch and the remainder of the pattern in outline stitch. Pink, blue, yellow and green are the colors most used for a spread of this variety. Embroider the leaves in one or two shades of green. Use yellow for the centers of the flowers, blue for the daisy petals and pink for the flowers with large round petals. Use blue for the bell-shaped flower and yellow for the circle. The basket should be worked in dark green. Finish the edge of the spread in coarse blanket stitch of the same color. This pattern will make a lovely bedspread, but is also suitable for the covers used on porch chairs.


Use toweling or any material of a medium quality for this apron. Transfer the design to the lower part of the apron, then turn the pattern upside down and use the center group of flowers for the upper par of the bib. The back of the apron is made by extending the straps, crossing and attaching them to the skirt with buttons and buttonholes. Work the center of the flowers in satin stitch, dots in French knots, petals and stems in outline stitch. The leaves formed of radiating lines should be worked in single or lazy-daisy stitch. Finish the entire edge of the apron with coarse blanket stitch.


The dainty little lady on this page may be used as an applique design or a simple embroidery pattern for the bottom of a fancy apron, the center of a bedspread, or the corners of curtains. When used as applique, omit the lines in the skirt. Use material for the ruffles at the neck, sleeves and bottom of the skirt, and checked gingham or a pretty figured material for the sleeves, bodice and skirt. The face, arms, bouquet, streamers and hat should be embroidered on the apron and no attempt should be made to applique these sections. If the pattern is to be embroidered, work all the lines in outline stitch and the solid sections in satin stitch. The line in the skirt should be worked in tiny seed or back stitch. A pretty idea is to use narrow lace for the ruffles on the little lady’s dress. The two designs in the corners are pretty patterns that are suitable for towels. Work the dark sections in satin stitch, the dots in French knots, and the lines in outline stitch.

Housewifely Wisdom — Appliqué Patterns from 1920s Newspapers

by Martha in Patterns

Newspapers in the 1920s were huge, with many having weekend editions over 100 pages. In addition to the usual news, sports and editorials, there were also whole sections devoted to fiction, activities and stories for children, and women’s interests. My favorites, of course, are the old needlework patterns, which sometimes took up a whole page.


The Housewifely Wisdom page ran in several different newspapers in 1922, and usually consisted of a half-page needlework pattern, as well as helpful hints and recipes. If you click to enlarge the images, you will be able to read the text.




“Rustic Winter Wonderland” Centerpieces

by Martha in Random Things

This is the project I’ve been working on constantly since my last post — making 150 crepe paper flowers in white and shades of blue/green, along with 35 birch bark vases. The theme for the decor at this event had already been selected, and, although Emily and I sort of struggled with different ideas for the centerpieces, they turned out pretty cute.

The 6 1/2″ x 15″ bark strips were purchased on Etsy, and I thought they were going to be malleable enough to just wrap around a bottle to create my vases. It wasn’t quite as simple as I thought, because the strips were a bit thicker and stiffer than I expected, and they first needed to be soaked and then curled around a wine bottle using twine (this is the hardest part — gloves are recommended). I let them dry for a couple of days, while my husband cut out 35 circles for the bottom using a 3″ hole saw.


Once the bark was dry, I tightened it just a little (temporarily leaving the string) to fit the wood bottom, then stapled the bark to the base with 4 or 5 staples. Then I cut off the string and tied each vase with 3 pieces of jute.



When I finished the 35 vases, there were some leftover strips, so I used them to cover a couple of larger cylindrical vases which will hold arrangements with a couple of dozen flowers each. These could be used at the check-in table or at the bar.



It would probably have been little easier if I were wrapping bark around containers for all the vases, but this is a charity function, and we are trying to keep costs as low as possible. Besides, crepe paper flowers don’t need a waterproof container.

For most of the colored flowers, I dyed the crepe paper. This time I repeated the technique I had used for streamers, but I also figured out a way to dye whole sheets of flat fold crepe paper. It was really easy, so I’ll be posting the directions soon, along with instructions for making a peony-like flower.

In addition to the flowers, I added some stuff from the woods behind our house — cedar branches, which I spray painted silver, along with some twigs. The metallic spray paint covered really well, but in my test, the painted cedar began to dry and curl after a couple of weeks, so I’ll wait to do those until we’re closer to the event. The arrangements are very light, so I put a couple of rocks in each vase to keep it from tipping over.



I’m almost done making the flowers . . . then on to the little tea light holders and the napkin rings. More later.

Little “O” Feedsack Charm Doll Quilt

by Martha in Quilts

This is a sample that I made for a quilt kit that I used to sell in my Etsy shop. Since the shop was closed long ago, I thought I should finally quilt some of these doll quilt tops. Here’s my description of the pattern from an earlier post about the top:

The only place I could find this pattern is on the first page of Maggie Malone’s 5,000 Quilt Block Designs.  She calls it “Big O”, but the name doesn’t have a reference to any publication. I thought I should change the name for this little quilt.

The pattern reminds me of Kansas Dugout (here is mine — also made with feedsacks), but Kansas Dugout has many set-in pieces and is usually hand sewn. Little “O” is pretty simple to sew on the machine, even in this reduced size, because you only have to sew one partial seam (Thanks, Dottie!). I drew several different layouts, but finally decided on this one with blocks in vertical rows separated by sashing; then vertical rows offset and sewn together without sashing. To me, this mixes up the blocks and makes the quilt more interesting, but it’s still relatively easy to put together.

The quilt has 46 blocks made with 184 different feedsack prints, plus a feedsack border. For the background fabric, I used a vintage muslin with a slightly coarser weave, which is very similar to the feedsacks. The finished blocks are 2″.

The back is made with leftover pieces of the feedsack border fabric, and the binding is a vintage percale. The quilting is very simple with a square grid in the blocks and straight lines in the border.

Little “O” Doll Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2014
Machine Pieced, Hand Quilted
17″ x 21″