Posts Written By Martha

Free Pattern Friday — Jungle Picture Embroidery Pattern, 1923

Tiny Fingers Can Turn This Jungle Picture Into a Beautiful Cushion Top


“Here is a gift that the tiny seamstress can make for Grandmother or Aunty. The entire pattern should be worked in simple stitches and when finished it will make a nice cover for a pillow. Use white or colored lines and transfer the design with carbon paper. Use outline stitch for the elephant, the trunks of the palm trees, center of the leaves, and the long lines forming stalks and blades of grass. For the short blades of grass and leaves of the trees, use single stitch. Work the elephants eye in satin stitch. The outer line forming a frame is part of the design, so do not forget to embroider it. Use black for the frame, for the elephant, and the birds (in the sky). Various tones of green, yellow and blue should be used for the foliage. If natural colored linen is used, the design works up very effectively in a single color, preferably delft blue or red.”

Fort Wayne Sentinel, 1923


McCall’s Monday — Child’s Picture Patch Quilt, #1633

I’ve always loved this pattern, which appears in my May, 1929 catalog, McCall’s Designs for Needlework and Decorative Arts. People often refer to it as a circus quilt, and I can understand that, but there’s no circus reference in the catalog description.

My scaled drawings are copied from the catalog illustration. The illustrator eliminated some of the seams, so two sizes of rectangles were added to the squares and triangles. That’s also how I would have drafted the pattern — no need to create unnecessary bulky seams, which just make hand quilting more challenging. It does, however, mean that each block has to be sewn together differently — and in chunks rather than rows.

The description states that the quilt is 40″ x 57″, which helps in figuring out the block size. The original pattern would have included templates, which are not necessarily friendly measurements for rotary cutting, so I tried to come up with some easier numbers. If you made each finished square 1.75″, the block size would be 14″. To make the sashing about the same scale as it appears in the drawing, it would need to be about 2 1/2 squares wide, which is actually 4.375, but you could do either 4.25″ (quilt size 40.75″ x 59″) or 4.50″ (quilt size 41.5″ x 60″), depending upon how wide you like the sashing. Remember, I’m talking about finished sizes here, so you would need to cut strips 2.25″ wide to make your squares/rectangles.

Some old quilts I’ve seen in this pattern did not have embroidered details, but they are included here because I like them, although I had to sort of guess what they looked like from the fuzzy picture. The elephant didn’t appear to have an eye, so I added one.













Tops From the Trunk — Unknown Diamond Pattern

I love this unusual pattern, but I have not been able to find a name or photo anywhere. If you have any information about the pattern, I would love to hear from you.

The diamond shaped pieces appear to be from the 1950s, with bright solids and small novelty and floral prints. Although it must have been tricky to piece, the quilter did a very nice job. It is square and pretty flat, with only some small puckering that should easily quilt out. The top was clearly made for a twin bed at 60″ x 83″ and is hand pieced.


The quilter used two colors of background fabric (one white and one cream colored), but all of the square pieces had turned brownish, as you can see in the photo below.


I took a chance that the top would clean up, and I was happy to see that an all night soak in hot water and Oxyclean removed most of the brown. Just a gentle machine washing was all that was left to turn this formerly grimy top into a little jewel.



Liberated Basket Medallion Quilt-a-Long — Star Border

Once again, I spent about a week thinking about this border before I finally settled on a design. I had hoped to do an appliquéd border this time to balance all the pieces in the log cabin blocks, but I’m not that great at appliqué, and a star shape seemed too challenging. To make the stars stand out against the pineapple blocks, I used a smaller block size and hand stitched simple 4-pointed stars using chambray and linen scraps. Unfortunately, I ran out of the little stripe I was using for the narrow border, so I substituted the checked fabric from the basket.

This has been such fun, and I’m sad that the quilt-a-long is winding down. I also learned that I am apparently incapable of creating a liberated quilt, and I’m finally okay with that.

The fish border is perfect for me since I live in the Pacific NW, and we love our fish. My mind is swimming with possibilities!



WIP Wednesday — Grandmother’s Fan Quilt Top, 1930s Prints on Black

At the beginning of 2016 I made a resolution — No New Quilts!

I’m sure many of you will not be surprised to hear that things did not work out quite as I’d planned, just like most, if not all, of my previous new year’s resolutions. However, even though I am currently working on two new quilts (basket medallion and denim coverlet), I finally delved into the closet of WIPs, and I’m determined to tackle those old projects, one little bin at a time.

The first project I selected contained 20 Grandmother’s Fan blocks made with 1930s scraps from my stash — they’re a little different because my usual scrappiness is more controlled with the mostly two-color blocks. To make 36 more blocks, most of my time was spent searching through my scraps looking for just the right prints. Sometimes I didn’t have enough scraps to make 4 matching blades, so I substituted — other times the scraps weren’t large enough, so I pieced the pieces. It’s all part of the process when you become addicted to working with vintage fabric.

I haven’t done a black background in a ages — not since the feedsack crazy quilt I gave my daughter when she went to college — but I like it with these pastels. I used one of my son’s old sheets (from high school, because I never throw fabric away), which has been washed so many times that it’s more of a very dark gray.

The quilt top is 52″ x 67″, and I want to use pastel perle cotton to quilt it. What do you think . . . one color (which one?) or multiple colors? UPDATE: After reading the comments from Dottie, Virginia and Joyce, I took their advice and auditioned a few different thread colors. I realized right away that I didn’t like the colored stitching on black, which seemed busy and distracting. I’m still planning to use the perle cotton, but with black on the black and pastels on the fans. I want to keep the quilting pattern simple — maybe a variation on Baptist fan.




McCall’s Monday — Embroidered Bunny Quilt

Okay . . . it’s actually Tuesday and I’m late, but these transfers were in bad shape and had to be redrawn in Photoshop, which takes way longer than the usual clean up. They’re pretty cute, though, and I hope you enjoy them.

I made a quilt using these designs for a co-worker before I had a blog, so no pictures. Why didn’t I take pictures back then?!? I did the embroidery in pink, but used a different setting than indicated in the pattern. You’ll have to take my word for it that it turned out really cute.

I don’t have any templates for this pattern, or a pattern envelope — just the transfers and a scaled drawing. The construction is not too difficult, so I think you’ll be able to figure it out, or you could change it up like I did. Click images to enlarge.

McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-6 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-5 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-1 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-9 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-8 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-4 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-10 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-2 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-3 McCall-671-Bunny-Quilt-9



Free Pattern Friday — Antique Embroidery/Quilting Design

Sometimes I come across these very old embroidery designs that I know would also work for hand quilting, but seem like they could be adapted for continuous line machine quilting as well. Disclaimer:  I have never used a continuous line quilting pattern, so please do not hesitate to tell me this is a dumb idea. Actually, the patterns for braiding are even better for quilting (I will post some of those later), but today’s patterns are simple embroidery designs from the Chicago Daily Tribune, 1914.




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McCall’s Monday — 1920s Toddler Dress Pattern

This is my favorite style of dress for little girls — no bodice, just free and loose, gathered at the shoulders or yoke. They’re comfortable for the little wearer, easy to make and fit, and can be worn with pants when they become too short. Another plus is that when sewn with today’s fabrics, they can look very modern.

These 1920s McCall’s patterns with their adorable illustrations show up pretty regularly on Ebay and Etsy, but they are crazy expensive. Sometimes the sellers include a photo of the pattern back, which can be helpful when trying to draft your own pattern. As you can see in the photo, there are usually only a few pattern pieces which are illustrated, although the scale never looks quite right to me. Drafting the pattern probably requires a child’s dress form or, even better, a real little girl. I’m going to try making this one, and if it turns out okay, I’ll write a tutorial.

These little dresses often have tiny embroidered details, which is the best part.





My New Singer 15-91

My sister and I stopped by our favorite Goodwill last week, and I spotted a vintage Singer machine in a cabinet that I recognized as a 15-91 because of the distinctive potted motor on the back. It was a little dusty, but otherwise looked super clean. There were lots of accessories and bobbins in the drawers, and the price tag read $30 — I freaked out!  When I got home I removed all the hardware attaching it to the cabinet, because I don’t have room for another piece of furniture in my sewing room, and Gordon used the wood from the cabinet to make a base.

Although it looked good and was running nicely, I’ve read enough to know it needed to be completely re-wired. Gordon ordered the items we needed (round terminals, new motor brushes, grease wick material and wires), and then we set about taking the machine apart. I was a little nervous (especially when we broke open the motor), but fortunately we were following this amazingly detailed, 20-step online tutorial that walks you through every step with gobs of photos.

After the wiring and greasing was done, I took apart the bobbin and tension assemblies (following directions in the 15-91 manual), and oiled the whole machine. The only thing left to do is polish the two chrome pieces. It sews like a dream and, a fun factoid —  it was made in 1947, the year I was born.

I still have 3 sewing machines (Bernina 1000 Special, Bernina 540-2 Favorit, and the Singer 15-91). Last year I gave my Bernina 830 Record to a quilter I met online whose 830 had just died, and she could not afford to buy another one. I found that even though the 830 was a wonderful machine, I was so used to my 1000 (which I’ve been sewing on for 25 years), that I wasn’t really using the 830, and I didn’t need both of them since they are very similar. Plus, it felt great to be able to help out another quilter.



And, because it’s still Free Pattern Friday, here is a cute cottage which was part of a small lot of British transfers purchased on Ebay. The pattern was too rough to clean up in Photoshop, so I just ended up tracing it. Click the image to enlarge.