Posts Written On August 2009

ABC Embroidered Quilt Block – Yak

The yak is finally done, so the ABC embroidery is complete. Now all I have to do is sew the last two rows together which I thought I would get done this weekend, but it didn’t work out. Looking back at my first post of the alligator block on May 18, I realized that it’s taken me over three months to complete this embroidery (and the pinwheels). The circus blocks should go much faster since the drawings are pretty simple — more like the Simple Objects Quilt.




Vintage Vogue 1253 – Focus on Embroidery

All that stitching on the zebra block made me think of a another satin stitch project from the past. I actually made this poppy dress twice (and the green one once for my sister). The first dress I made in the 70’s and I ended up giving it away to this crazy girl who lived in a tiny apartment behind us when we lived in a Silver Lake duplex in Los Angeles. She really liked it and I think I had probably had too much to drink. A couple of years ago I started thinking about that pattern and decided I wanted to make a new one. Well…it was extremely difficult to locate the pattern and when I did find one, it went for some insane amount of money I was not willing to pay. Fortunately, the photo posted on ebay was pretty good, so I enlarged it, changed it to grayscale and ramped up the contrast. Then I printed it out and used it to transfer the pattern. It wasn’t perfect, and I couldn’t really make out the floss colors in the photo, but I just winged it.

Here is the top I made and below a photo of the pattern.  The funny thing is….I haven’t worn it because after I made it, I thought it looked silly and way too young for me. I guess that’s what happens when you try to recapture your youth.



The Book of ABC

Since “Y is for Yak” is not finished, I thought I would post one of my vintage picture books. I love to collect ABC, nursery rhyme and fairy tale “linenette” books, mostly from the 1940’s. The books have heavy-weight, textured pages and are usually pretty thin, with around 12 pages although some have as many as 24. Most of them have a credited illustrator (unlike my vintage coloring books).   I think it’s so clever how she worked several letters into each picture.

The Book of ABC
Merrill Company Publishers, 1948
Vivian Robbins, Illustrator






ABC Embroidered Quilt Block – Zebra

When I started this quilt, I intended to embroider the blocks primarily with outline and back stitch. I hadn’t thought I would use much satin stitch, but I couldn’t figure out any other way to do this zebra — the stripes just wouldn’t look right. Also, I couldn’t find a DMC or Anchor variegated floss that I liked, so I ended up using one of those cheap “made in China” brands which was horrible to work with — especially in satin stitch. Because I was paranoid, I tested it a bunch before I decided to use it — just to make sure it wouldn’t bleed in the wash or fade in the sun. It didn’t do any of those things, but it is definitely fuzzier than the better quality floss brands and consequently is not as crisp looking and has an annoying tendency to knot. I doubt there will be another circumstance where I will resort to using it.

Just one more block to embroider — Y is for Yak.




Pieced Butterfly Quilt – Block 2

I’m still working on the zebra block. As a break from all that satin stitching, I decided to stitch another pieced butterfly — this time in pink. It’s really fun to select the little fabric swatch prints for these butterflies.

The original pattern had 3 small curved pieces on the wing. In order to fit the template to my vintage fabric samples, I changed the pattern so there are 4 of these pieces on each wing. My finished block is 9″ x 9″.

Update:  The complete original pattern (with instructions) and more block photos are available on a later post here. Click here for a scaled drawing of my adapted pattern.



ABC Embroidered Quilt Blocks – Violin & Xylophone

As you can see, I made a couple of additions/changes to both of these pictures since I thought they were a little blah. My violin bow looks sort of big, but I think they actually are longer than the violin. I had a hard time coming up with something to put in the letter x, but I’m pretty happy with the music notes, although I think real xylophone music doesn’t look anything like that.

I am really running out of steam on this project — only one more week of summer vacation until school begins and I hope to have the top done by then. The pinwheel blocks are sewn, so it’s just a matter of stitching y and z and putting the last two rows together.

Thanks everyone for the nice comments on the circus quilt idea. I’m excited to begin.






Embroidered Circus Quilt – WIP

Here are the fabrics I’m going to use in my next embroidered quilt. I guess this isn’t quite a WIP yet, except that I am sketching some design ideas. The adorable circus fabric is “Circus Time” in periwinkle, and was purchased from superbuzzy, a store with the cutest Japanese fabrics. It’s decorator weight (70% cotton, 30% linen), so I purchased a muslin-colored Kona cotton for the embroidered squares to compensate for the slightly thicker circus fabric. The striped fabric is from Jo-Ann Fabrics and originally had a bright white background which I tea-dyed. The floss is Danish Flower Thread (Gordon gave me a complete set for my birthday this year) and I thought it looked good with the circus print which also has a rather dull finish like flower thread. Lastly, the cute circus designs came from a vintage coloring book shared with me by the wonderfully generous Chelsea Ann at ittybittybirdy.

I am excited to finish up the alphabet quilt top and get started on some new embroidery, since it’s way too hot to do any hand quilting yet.



Quilt-in-a-Day — Baby 4-Patch

I’ve never been much interested in the quickie quilt thing and could not imagine why anyone would want to make a quilt in a day. What would you do with all the quilts you were making unless maybe they were being made for a hospital or a charity. I already have more quilts than I can possibly use, and I only manage to finish one or two each year. Also, it doesn’t sound like much fun to me — lots of strip cutting and chain piecing which I don’t enjoy. Having said all that….I have to admit that these quickie type quilts are perfect as gifts for my teacher friends at school. I did manage to complete this little quilt yesterday — although it did take the whole day. I’m afraid my points are not absolutely perfect and it was hard to keep the striped fabric lined up just right, but hey — it’s a quilt-in-a-day!

This is a pattern from the book Quilt-Lovers’ Favorites, Volume 2. I made another baby quilt in this pattern with light-colored scrap shirting-type fabrics as the setting triangles (similar to the photograph in the book below). It was cute, but this time I decided to use the striped fabric in the triangles as well since there was some left over after cutting the sashing strips. I’m not sure which one I like best, and I can’t show you the other one since I didn’t take a photo of it or any of the other 10 baby quilts I’ve made for teachers. This quilt is made with new fabric — it’s machine quilted in the ditch and tied with floss in the middle of each 4-patch. I really like the look of the vertical striped fabric between the 4-patch strips.

Baby 4-patch
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2009
machine pieced, machine quilted
36″ x 44″


Better Homes and Gardens
Quilt-Lovers’ Favorites, Volume 2
Candy Stripes



ABC Embroidered Quilt Block – Summer

Getting close to the end now — I’m working on fall and I still have to stitch v, x, y & z — then I’ll be done with the embroidery.  I was sort of hoping to do a yellow summer block, but it didn’t work out since I was using a beach scene.  My daughter helped me select the pictures from the coloring book.



Pieced Butterfly Quilt Block – WIP

I have always admired this old Alice Brooks/Laura Wheeler pieced butterfly pattern — I think it’s from the 1930’s. I have seen several different versions of this pattern, but I like the one with solid colors and coordinating prints — I also like the two wings to be mirror images of each other.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a box of vintage fabric samples. They are all the same sized rectangle with pinked edges. There are approximately 2,000 pieces and each one is different, although there are several of the same print in different colorways. Fortunately, they were clean and didn’t have any paper residue on the back, so I was able to just starch, press and cut my butterfly templates. I drafted the pattern to fit the pieces because each little 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ rectangle would have to accommodate two mirror image templates — that took a bit of working out. The finished block is 9″ — the background is a muslin-colored percale, the solids are vintage scraps, and the polka-dot fabric new.

This is a fun pattern to piece — a little more challenging than the 9-patch and snowball. I just felt like I wanted to take a little break from the embroidery, so I’m planning to do a little hand piecing between the embroidery. The original pattern is available here and my adapted version is listed under Download Links in the sidebar.




Floral Patchwork Table Topper

This topper was made with vintage floral scraps. The fabrics are probably from the 40’s and the weights vary, but they are not as heavy as bark cloth. Most of them had been curtains, drapes or pillows in their previous lives. The fabrics are so busy that I just noticed when taking the photo that one of the squares has some paint splatters on it — it’s really hard to see. The topper is machine quilted in the ditch, and the backing (which is turned to the front to form the wide binding) is a decorator remnant I had been using as a tablecloth.

The little vintage wall pocket looks pretty cute with the cloth. It was purchased from Barbara (Oodles and Oodles). Barbara is one of my favorite bloggers — she’s very clever and also has this amazing ability to find all the vintage items I love best — linens & sewing notions, glassware, pottery, holiday decorations and lots more — and some of them end up in her Etsy shop.




ABC Embroidered Quilt Block – Winter

Apparently I am going to finish the four seasons blocks before the alphabet. The snowflakes on this block have traveling threads behind them, and I thought I would give you my little tip on how to reduce the appearance of these strands from the front. Of course, the embroidery always looks pretty good until you iron it, when a couple of things happen to make the threads more visible — they are pressed flat against the fabric which also creates a little ridge. To correct this, I use my little Clover iron to press the fabric under each one of the traveling threads (I use a straight pin to lift up the threads). This pulls the threads slightly away from the fabric and flattens the ridge. I think you will be surprised at how well this works. I try not to travel between elements when I’m embroidering, but sometimes it can’t be helped. There was no way I was going to tie off all of those French knots.