Q is for Quilter

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″


September Apron Winner

by Martha in Random Things

Congratulations Commenter #9, Beth F!  You are the winner of the September apron.


Thank you to everyone who participated — there was a big group this time.

For October’s apron, I am planning to make this cute Betsey Johnson apron from the 70s, but there are some competing projects:  recreating the 1970s iconic jacket worn by Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan for Emily’s Halloween costume (just ordered the fabric); making 120 red and black crepe paper roses, and a large paper mache gargoyle for Emily’s Goth-themed 30th birthday bash in November (30 flowers completed); and finally creating 40 “rustic winter wonderland” centerpieces using white crepe paper flowers for a local charity event that we support, also in November (only one sample arrangement made). Of course, there are also Christmas gifts to be made, so I’m afraid there may not be much quilty stuff going on in the Gray home for the next few months.


ABC Coloring Book for Labor Day

by Martha in Children's Books

Here’s a cute undated coloring book which includes four different alphabet sets (jobs, fruit/vegetables/flowers, simple objects, and animals). I thought the jobs one would be perfect for Labor Day, with its quaint worker illustrations featuring children. Some of these jobs would surely be unfamiliar to children today (ice man, organ grinder, valet, yeoman, zinc worker), and they wouldn’t have been familiar to the childhood me, either. When my children were little, they would probably have associated several of these jobs with me (baker, laundress, quilter, upholsterer, and possibly junkman) or their dad (carpenter — since there’s no banker, candlemaker, cook or stained glass artist).

I love ABC books in general, but I have a soft spot for this one because I stitched the Q is for Quilter illustration in 2008 for part of my blog header. Sometimes I think about changing it, but I never do — I really like it.

ABC-Coloring-Book-A ABC-Coloring-Book-B-C ABC-Coloring-Book-D-E ABC-Coloring-Book-F-G ABC-Coloring-Book-H ABC-Coloring-Book-I-J ABC-Coloring-Book-K-L ABC-Coloring-Book-M ABC-Coloring-Book-N ABC-Coloring-Book-O-P ABC-Coloring-Book-Q-R ABC-Coloring-Book-S ABC-Coloring-Book-T ABC-Coloring-Book-U-V ABC-Coloring-Book-W-X ABC-Coloring-Book-Y-Z

September Apron Giveaway

by Martha in Other Needlework

The apron giveaway for commenters is a little early this month, but I won’t have the drawing until Wednesday morning, September 4. Some days you just wake up and feel like making an apron — I’m sure some of you know what that’s like.

I did end up sort of copying the pattern illustration I posted when I announced the August apron winner, although I decided to make the full apron version instead of the half. My pleats are not pressed flat like they are in the drawing, because I ended up positioning my pockets more to the side where the pleats are. Anyway, I’m pretty confident this one will fit any size, and I made it with really long ties, just in case you like to tie in the front.

Once again, I used part of the bolt of Waverly fabric I purchased last year at the Goodwill — you might recognize it from my sewing room, where it covers my chair and ironing board, and is also a curtain. I had lots of fabric to play with for this apron, which allowed me to line up the front, skirt and pocket pieces just the way I wanted, even though the print is fairly large. The fabric to make the trim was also a Goodwill purchase, so it’s a completely recycled piece. Let me know in the comments below if you would like to enter the September giveaway.





Woman’s World Book of New Designs in Needlework,1922

by Martha in Vintage Finds

On Saturday I received a package from my friend, Patty, with two cute feedsacks I’d purchased from her Etsy shop (Patalier). Patty always includes a few vintagy surprises for me, and this time there were skeins of vintage perle cotton, gathered eyelet edging, two sweet hostess aprons (for a later post), and this l922 soft cover book. I know . . . she’s an amazing friend!

The poor book was in kind of rough shape with lots of tears, but Patty knows how much I love these illustrations from the 1920s, so I spent several happy hours digitally restoring my favorite pages. As usual, click to enlarge the images.









Chintz Quilts for Baby Girls — Done

by Martha in Quilts

The quilts for Eryn and Megan are packed up and ready to mail. Most of the glaze disappeared when I washed the quilts after the photos were taken. It was a little sad, even though I knew it would happen, but the quilts look nice now that they’re all clean and puffy. I always wash quilts as soon as I finish them — especially baby quilts.

I think I prefer the petal quilting on the squares in this quilt, but my favorite border is on the first quilt. Anyway, it was fun to mix up the quilting designs since the quilts themselves are pretty similar. I’ve really enjoyed working with the heavier linen thread, and will certainly use it again, although probably not on glazed chintz. Having to use pliers as a thread puller was kind of a drag.

Chintz Baby Quilt #2
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2014
Machine Pieced, Hand Quilted
37″ x 45″


Here are the two quilts side-by-side.


Vintage Embroidery Patterns — More Nursery Rhymes

by Martha in Patterns

Here’s another cute Mother Goose newspaper series. This group was published in 1941, and was illustrated by Laverne Bartos. Click thumbnails to enlarge.


Vintage Embroidery Patterns — Nursery Rhymes

by Martha in Patterns

Newspaper series of nursery rhyme patterns published in the 1930s. Click for full size.