Q is for Quilter

Embroidered Circus Quilt Top

by Martha in Quilts, Work in Progress

This quilt was started in September, 2009. I managed to stay with it long enough to finish the blocks and sashing, as well as one border, and then it sat in a shoebox for almost five years. Finishing this top is part of my latest attempt to complete some of these old projects.

The quilt was inspired by two things:  drawings from a vintage coloring book that I saw on Chelsea Ann’s blog, Itty Bitty Birdy, and a cute Japanese circus print fabric (last photo below). Chelsea Ann generously sent me some images from her coloring book, then later I managed to locate a copy of both the original circus coloring book, and another book by the same illustrator with even more circus drawings.

The top measures 39″ x 48″, and was stitched with Danish Flower Thread on a natural cream-colored fabric (my photos don’t display the cream very well). The circus fabric is for the backing, but I can’t decide whether I should make the binding with striped prairie points, cross-grain stripe, or bias diagonal stripe. I just realized I also have enough fabric I could add another border out of the stripe (same size as the sashing).  I’d love to hear what you would do.

Update:  After reading the first 3 comments, I decided to add a photo at the end to help visualize a striped binding and a striped border. Click any of the images to enlarge.








Strippy Postage Stamp Quilt – WIP

by Martha in Work in Progress

There’s a reason I can relate to the 1930s quilter who cut all of those tiny quilt pieces for the Double Nine-Patch quilt, which was the subject of my last post. The reason is that I have my own box of slightly larger vintage postage stamp pieces and a partial quilt top that has been languishing for some time. Before I start work on trimming the squares for the Double-Nine Patch, I should probably finish this strippy top.

I was inspired by a similar quilt I saw on an ebay years ago, because I liked the solid/white strips. This is a great pattern for using chain piecing, so the construction goes fairly quickly. Cutting out the little (1 1/8″) squares (852 for each strip) takes much longer. I have no idea if I have enough to finish the quilt, but I sort of doubt it. The top is currently 30″ x 82″ and I need to make six more strips.




There’s Nothing Better Than . . .

by Martha in Vintage Finds

. . . an old box stuffed with vintage quilt pieces. In this case, thousands of 1″ squares purchased on ebay that some nice quilter neatly strung together with double thread. What was she going to make with all these postage stamp sized pieces?








Fortunately, and I love it when this happens, she made one little block so I know that she was planning to make a Scrappy Double Nine-Patch. Unfortunately, she did not use a template to cut out any of the squares, so my blocks will be even smaller after I manage to trim the gazillion tiny pieces. Still . . . thank you, unknown 1930s quilter.









Vintage Embroidery Transfers – Superior 154

by Martha in Patterns

This set includes ten different flower designs in two sizes, with duplicates of each. I especially like the marigolds and the sweet peas, because I don’t often see them in old transfers. To browse my vintage transfers, click on “patterns” in my sidebar (which also contains quilt patterns), or type “transfers” in the search box. Click images to enlarge.








Superior-154-rose1-large Superior-154-rose1-small

Superior-154-large-marigold Superior-154-small-marigold

Superior-154-rose2-large Superior-154-rose2-small

Superior-154-daisy-large Superior-154-daisy-small

Superior-154-sweet-pea-large Superior-154-sweet-pea-small

More Vintage Embroidery Transfers – Superior 139

by Martha in Patterns

The number 52 referenced on the envelope must refer to the number of actual transfers in the set (including duplicates), and not to the number of different designs, but I may be missing a couple as these have been cut.

Twelve additional transfers from this set can be found in an earlier post. To browse my other vintage transfers, click on the “patterns” category in my sidebar (which also contains quilt patterns), or type “transfers” in the search box. Click images to enlarge.



Superior-139-20 Superior-139-21














Vintage Embroidery Transfers — Superior 139

by Martha in Patterns

I’m not sure if I have a complete set of these 52 Small Designs for Linens, but there are lots in the envelope. Some of the designs would be awfully cute on toddler clothing as well. I’ll continue cleaning and uploading until they are all posted, so more transfers coming tomorrow. To browse my other vintage transfers, click on the “patterns” category in my sidebar (which also contains quilt patterns), or type “transfers” in the search box. Click images to enlarge.


Superior-139-12 Superior-139-11 Superior-139-10

Superior-139-4 Superior-139-3


Superior-139-13 Superior-139-14 Superior-139-15 Superior-139-16

Superior-139-17 Superior-139-1


McCall’s Needlework and Decorative Arts, 1928

by Martha in Vintage Finds

I love the cover of this book so much that I spent most of a day cleaning up the scanned image. My copy has some tears and stains, but the worst was the brown foxing that covered the entire page. It can be tedious work, but it’s also sort of mesmerizing. While I was working on the image, I was watching a wonderful documentary, Tim’s Vermeer, where Tim painstakingly reproduces a Vermeer painting, which seemed sort of appropriate, although . . . Tim’s Vermeer – 4 years, Martha’s McCall’s Cover – 1 day. When my repair was done, I was so pleased to have restored this wonderful illustration — okay, not a Vermeer, but still pretty adorable.

There are two of these publications in my collection, and both are from 1928 — one is the Spring issue and one is Fall. Although only a few of the interior pages are colored, the Art Deco illustrations are all adorable. I’m always looking for the original patterns contained in these catalogs, but they are rare and difficult to find.



Smock-Top Pattern No. 1640 Has Points and Rambler-Roses




New Smock-Tops For Small and Bigger Girls


The Embroidery Way Smartens These Play Frocks

McCalls-1667 McCalls-1667-Directions

Happy Independence Day!

by Martha in Random Things

Also Happy Birthday to Gail Gray, my amazing mother-in-law.


July Apron Winners

by Martha in Random Things


The winner of the Theodora apron is commenter #6, Penny (Little Pen Pen).

July-apron-Theodora-thumbnail Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 11.40.40 PM


And the winner of the Egremont apron is commenter #14, Tina.

July-apron-Egremont-thumbnail Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 11.42.22 PM


Congratulations to Penny and Tina — I will be sending emails to you, and once I receive your addresses, I’ll get these aprons in the mail to you right away. I hope those of you who did not win this month will consider entering the August Apron Thingy — I’m going to change it up a little and make a different style.

Vogart Embroidered Lambs Quilt

by Martha in Vintage Finds

As I was looking through my new book, Childhood Treasures: Doll Quilts By and For Children (2008) by Merikay Waldvogel, I came across this quilt.


and I was so happy because look what I have.


The blocks are older (1932) than I thought, and I was so lucky to find them without any stitching, because I want to do that myself. The maker of this quilt didn’t bother cutting the blocks apart, but just used a running stitch on the cutting lines. I’ll add sashing or alternate blocks to mine.

Now, if I could only find a backing fabric as cute as the one in the book. Maybe I’ll have to start searching for a vintage lamb print.

Ocean Waves Quilt

by Martha in Quilts

This top was completed a long time ago (I wrote about it in this post), and it has been stuck in the queue all these years because I couldn’t figure out how to quilt it. Because the yellow is Kona cotton, which is heavier than the solids I am used to, coupled with the fact that there are about a gazillion seams in this pattern, I wanted to avoid sewing through the points of those little triangles. Finally I forced myself to sit down and sketch some designs, and I finally came up with something I was happy with — basically just a square grid though the triangles, with a geometric pinwheel in the solid space. For the borders I ditch stitched the flying geese, and then echoed that shape in the solid border. I bet you’re wondering why it took so long to come up with a pretty simple pattern. Not sure — maybe I had quilter’s block. You can see in the last photo that I had to fudge a little in the corners, which can happen when you don’t plan a quilting pattern when you’re designing the top, which is what I almost always do.

It’s been a long time since I’ve quilted a bed-sized quilt (and this is just a twin), but I’m so happy I was able finish it with very little pain in my hand and wrist. Taking almost a year off from quilting, wearing my brace both at night and when quilting, and alternating different types of stitching have all helped to combat my carpal tunnel and tendinitis. I now limit my hand sewing to 2-3 hours a day in the evenings, and I should switch to something else now (embroidery, hand piecing or appliqué), although I am itching to make a another dent in that pile of tops.

Ocean Waves Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2014
machine pieced, hand quilted
64″ x 78″




July Apron Thingy

by Martha in Other Needlework, Random Things

The aprons are finished, so we’re doing this early. I’m calling it the Thingy instead of that other word, hoping I can stop the comments from people who obviously troll the internet searching for sites using that word. Even when I carefully explain that this event is meant to be a thank you to readers who have commented on my (non-g******y) posts, I still get these random entries. Some of these people have made comments every single time I have conducted one of these events, and it’s pretty clear they don’t read my blog. Oh well . . . on to the aprons.

This month two readers will each receive an apron. The fabrics I chose this time are not old, but are based on antique designs. They are sample pieces of decorator fabric from Brunschwig & Fils, which were part of a lot of large samples (around 26″ x 36″) I purchased on ebay last year. I’d never heard of B&F before, but that’s probably because I just found out their fabrics are crazy expensive at $100+/yard. They are beautiful, though, and these samples, which are fairly heavyweight, make lovely pillows, bags or chef style aprons. Here’s a quote from the B&F home page:

From grand rooms in the White House and the Palace of Versailles to romantic country retreats in cottages and seaside homes, Brunschwig & Fils fabrics, wallcoverings and furnishings have appeared for more than a century in the world’s most beautiful and iconic interiors. Brunschwig & Fils is the canon of high quality decorative textiles in the home furnishings industry, and today its many other products include wallpaper, trimmings and upholstered furniture.

The first fabric is Theodora (cotton/linen blend) in the espresso and bittersweet colorway. B&F states “This 18th century French interpretation of an Indianne design, heavily laced with color, brings out the best of French complexity and Indian imagination.” The other colorways are more subdued, but I like this wild one. I used a small brown and pink print for the bias neck treatment and the small doubled ruffle which goes all around the apron. The ties are grosgrain ribbons.




The second fabric sample is Egremont (cotton) in robin’s egg, which I believe is out of print. The label claims the pattern was authorized by the Society for the Preservation on New England Antiquities in Boston, as an adaptation from a block-print sidewall paper, France, 1815-25. On this apron I used a 19th century reproduction brown to make the bias binding, and I added a little vintage lace trim, which was a gift from Joyce Carter, a reader who won an earlier apron.




If you have not yet won an apron this year, and you have ever made a comment on my blog (other than for a you-know-what), you are eligible to enter. Simply let me know in a comment below which apron you would prefer. I will use a random number generator to select the winners on Tuesday, July 1. NOTE:  If you are the second person chosen, you may or may not receive your preferred apron.

Another Medallion Doll Quilt?

by Martha in Work in Progress

I wasn’t planning on doing another medallion quilt in my doll quilt series. There are so many others on my list (two-color, whole cloth, sampler, or even Hawaiian), but then I found the photo below in the book Great Little Quilts by Eleanor Levie. The original is about 45″ square, but mine is going to be just 18″, which required a few hours of drafting with some 1/10″ grid paper. My design is not perfect, but the original is also a little funky, and I think that’s just fine.

My templates are all traced and cut, but it’s going to take some time to gather the antique fabrics for this little quilt, because I need some larger pieces of red and brown for a couple of the borders where the prints are the same. If I can’t find exactly what I need, I’ll use reproduction fabric for those sections.

As I was drawing this pattern, a couple of things came to mind about the advantages of using template patterns. First, you can design a quilt with any weird size piece you want (like 7/10th”), and it’s very easy to reduce or enlarge a pattern by simply scanning and re-sizing the template pieces. There are instructions in the book to make this quilt in a 48″ size, which is similar to the original. If the author had provided templates, it would have been a lot easier for me to shrink this pattern.




Nancy Page Summer Garlands Quilt, 1936, Pattern #17

by Martha in Patterns

“And now, one more beautiful quilt is added to your heirlooms. Really, isn’t it the prettiest thing? Do you suppose Nancy can ever do anything so nice again? Just you wait until next week, and the answer will be in the paper.”

Finally, we have arrived at the last pattern for the Summer Garlands Quilt — the quilting design. As promised, I have created links to all the previous pattern pages. Clicking on the thumbnails below will take you to the original page for that section of the Summer Garlands quilt pattern.



More Farm Journal Quilt Patterns, 1937 and 1939

by Martha in Patterns

These four pattern pages are longer than the previous Farm Journal patterns. If you want to print them at their original sizes, you will need to use two pages, or a legal sized sheet of paper.

Firecrackers and Rockets


Thither and Yon


Pink Magnolias


The Hunt