Posts Written By Martha

My Quilt’s on the Cover Book Giveaway

Haha! It’s probably not what you were expecting. This is not a book about vintage quilts or how to make quilts. It’s a quilt-themed novel, Everlasting Quilts, the 4th in Ann Hazelwood’s East Perry County Series published by AQS. I was contacted by the cover designer, who asked if he could use a photo of my bow tie quilt, and I agreed.

It’s not an exact representation of my quilt, because the designer used a detail photo of only 20 blocks and just tiled the photo to fill in the rest. Still, I think it turned out nice.

The publisher sent me two copies of the book to give away, so if you would like one, please let me know in a comment. If more than two people respond, I will use a random number generator to pick the winners next weekend.




Antique Crib Quilt — Basket 4-Patch

The little 19th century quilt is just a top now, because someone decided to separate it from its backing and batting. You can still see remnants of the quilting stitches (a basic outline pattern) and where the binding was attached. I’m thinking it was once a crib quilt because of its scale and size (43″ x 50″), as well as the whimsical look of the baskets with their cute squatty handles.

The quilter chose an appealing set incorporating the 3 1/2″ basket blocks into a 4-patch block. She mostly used the same prints for both the baskets and the plain squares, but not always, which gives the design more interest. The fabrics include madders, double-pinks, gingham and shirtings — I’ve always loved this combination of brown and pink.

Madders don’t hold up well over time, and I think you can see, if you enlarge the first photo, that some of them are torn and shattered. Those that are not already disintegrating are extremely fragile, so I covered the back with a piece of sheer weight, iron-on interfacing. I bought it despite these issues because I loved it so much, and now I’m going to make a copy using reproduction fabrics.


DIY Upholstering on the Cheap

I’m not dead! It’s been six months since I’ve posted anything, and I must say that it’s very hard to get back into the routine of posting after you’ve taken a long break. Gordon and I spent about four months arranging new housing for his parents (independent and assisted living), as well as cleaning out, repairing and selling their home of 60+ years. Also, Gordon has finally retired, so we are doing more things together during the day, which means I am spending less time sewing.

Some of my break was spent reupholstering furniture, which has been a challenging but satisfying project. We purchased our living room couch when we moved into this house 26 years ago. It’s a Lane in a traditional style that was originally covered in blue brocade (I know . . . ick), but it was a subtle pattern and I liked it for a long time until I didn’t. Although the couch itself was still in great shape, the fabric was really gross. Our dog, Lucy, used to sneak in and sleep on it when no one was home, and also it was faded from the sun. My sister gave me a bolt of  yellow striped cotton which she decided not to use for her couch, so this project was practically free.

I am also recovering two matching chairs purchased from a thrift shop about the same time as the couch — one of which is finished, and the other is in progress. They’re a sort of French style, with carved wood frames, and fabric covered seats, backs and arms. Double welting covers the stapled edges.

My sister, who taught herself how to upholster, helped me with my first piece, and I’ve since done three others. This couch, however, is the most elaborate job I’ve tackled. There was more sewing involved because it has six cushions, four of which are odd shapes, but most of the project involved staples — tons of staples. I feel like there were thousands in these three pieces, which I saved in a bowl to prove to Gordon how hard I’d worked. It’s insane how many staples these professional upholsterers use — I always think they go crazy just because they can, since they’re using easy, expensive pneumatic staple guns.

There are lots of good tutorials online for learning to do upholstery (I like this one at diydesign), and even though they’re not going to be quite the same as your piece, they can still be very helpful. For the couch, I started at the bottom and just began peeling off each section, keeping the pieces intact that I would need as templates for the new pattern. I marked all the pieces with a black sharpie, making note of placement, direction, seam allowances, tucks — basically anything I could think of that would help me get the thing back together. I also tried to preserve all the little tricky devices they use (some metal, some cardboard) so I could reuse them later. Really, it’s just like a big puzzle, and if you take your time, it’s not that difficult. The very worst part is removing all the staples, and I found some new tools that made it much easier this time (shown below).

Here’s the couch while I was working on it — propped up on other furniture, including the chairs I would recover later and a piano bench with a shuffle board on top. It’s much easier on your back if you can rig up something to elevate the piece.

Here’s the finished couch, which I think took about three weeks to recover, but I didn’t work on it every day. The old blue fabric was very snug on the cushions, but I wanted a little softer look. I kept the bottom cushions fairly tight, but made the back cushions a little slouchier.

I thought the chairs were going to be much easier, because the construction was pretty simple. Unfortunately, the staple situation was horrible. The wood was much harder than on the couch, and the staples were butted up against the edge of a sort of channel in the wood which made them very difficult to pry up without gouging the wood.

What saved the day were two staple lifters — C.S. Osborne & Co. No. 763 (red handle) and No. 64006 (yellow handle). I would have given up without these tools. I also used heavy-duty pliers, a light staple gun with 3/16″ wire staples (I can’t squeeze hard enough to use the heavy duty guns, so sometimes I have to use a hammer to get the staples all the way in). As you can see in the photo below, the cotton was a little rough after I peeled it away from the fabric, so I added new pieces of quilt batting to smooth it out.

I love this linen fabric that I found 50% off at Joann’s, but it was only available online and I had to wait 3 weeks to receive it. The double welting on the chair is super easy to prepare, and there are lots of instructional videos on YouTube. The original welting was stapled on, but I always put mine on with hot glue, which works just fine and is much easier.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. My plan is to post whenever I have something new, but I’m not sure how often that will be.


American Girl Dolls Dress up as Characters from Clueless.

Because we had such a great time last year at Emily’s American Girl Doll Store birthday party, we decided to do it all over again this year. For last year’s party, I dressed 3 of the dolls as 80’s pop stars. This year Emily requested characters from one of her favorite movies, Clueless, directed by Amy Heckerling — a 1995 coming-of-age comedy staring Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, and Brittany Murphy, which is loosely based on the novel, Emma, by Jane Austen. Mona May was the designer of the amazing costumes.

Once again, I had such fun finding the materials and making these outfits. Here are the dolls hanging out in a mall bar before our visit to the AG Store. Mary-Ellen is dressed as Amber, Julie is Cher, Addy is Dionne, and Molly is Tai.


If you’ve not seen the movie (and you definitely should), here are some photos of the original outfits.





McCall’s Monday — Dutch Boys and Girls Embroidery Patterns, Part 2

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments on my blog break post. I’m fine — just very busy with family and projects that have nothing to do with quilting or embroidery. I hope to share a few things in the next couple of months, and look forward to getting back to a regular blogging schedule after the holidays.

Here are the rest of McCall’s 779, Dutch Boy and Girls. The other two motifs can be found in an earlier post.











Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on Emily’s latest Halloween costume. This year she asked me to make the Cyndi Lauper outfit from the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” video, which was, appropriately, a lot of fun to make. It’s a coincidence, since I recently posted a squaw apron pattern, and the skirt Cyndi wears in the video is a thrift shop squaw skirt, probably from the 1950s.

As you can tell from the photo below, Cyndi’s skirt is very full. I decided to make Emily’s skirt with circular tiers, instead of the straight ones called for in my vintage pattern — it’s still very full, but less bulky and heavy. It’s a little trickier to sew the trim on a curve, but I like the way it turned out — the bottom of the skirt is just short of 9 yards long.

Here’s Emily . . .


and here’s Cyndi . . .


Of course, we couldn’t find anything like these weird tribal mask earrings Cyndi wore, but I thought I could make them with Sculpey clay, and that’s exactly what I did.



Liberated Basket Quilt-a-Long — Fishy Border

I live on the Pacific Northwest coast, so of course I’m going to make salmon for my fish border. Still, even though I came up with an idea right away, it took me forever to stitch them, and I just barely finished in time. Also, I ran into the same problem I had with the log cabin blocks — the scraps I was working with were too small. My solution this time was to make Susan McCord style fish, and I’m actually pretty happy with my patchwork salmon.

I made templates from some images I found online, but the details on the fish were small, and I was struggling with my normal baste and pin method. I ended up using the dryer sheet technique to prep them, except I substituted sheer-weight interfacing because it doesn’t melt when you iron it the way dryer sheets do. Using the interfacing produced a salmon that was a bit thicker and tricker to stitch down than my normal technique, and they also have a slightly puffy look to them in person, but the details (fins, tail and mouth) look better. The top ended up at 58″ square.

Click to enlarge the image if you want a closer look at the fishy border. It’s weird — something I never would have chosen on my own — but I like it a lot. Thanks, Wendy, for the inspiration.