Posts Written On September 2009

Vintage Halloween Embroidery Transfers

Halloween is a big deal in our family — especially for my sister, Mary. Every year she decorates her whole house and has a big family party. Also, my little brother, Larry, was born on Halloween, so we always made a big fuss over him. Larry was born with many health and developmental problems and he died very young at only 33. All five of us are about 5 years apart — Mary and Larry were born late in my parents’ marriage (my mother was 40 and 45), and they were always very close.

Just in case you want to stitch up some Halloween goodies, here are a some vintage Artex liquid embroidery transfers.  Happy Halloween Mary and Larry!







Crazy Baseball Quilt

These block pieces were purchased on ebay in 2002.  The fabric scraps were hand stitched to a foundation of 1943 newspaper pages.  The stitches were not as close as I would have liked, but I couldn’t figure out how to go over her stitching.  In the end I just removed the newspaper — then soaked, pressed and re-cut the pieces.  The original shape would have created a kind of rounded square with the four muslin pieces, but I decided to cut the curve more deeply which makes a nice circle when the muslin pieces are joined– the baseball.  I machine stitched around the outside of each piece before hand stitching the muslin pieces into the curves.

Because I was a little worried about the structural integrity of her stitching, I decided to do a fairly close quilting design with horizontal and vertical lines. The binding and backing are the same cadet blue fabric. I like the way it turned out, and the stitching has held up just fine. It’s actually pretty gratifying to complete another quilter’s unfinished project.

Crazy Baseball Quilt
Unknown Quilter, 1943, and
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2005
hand pieced, hand quilted
57″ x 81″





Elliott’s Embellished Overalls

When my son, Elliott, was little, I loved to decorate his denim overalls with leftover trim pieces and embroidery stitches. As he grew taller, I’d cut that pair into shorts and stitch a new one with long pants. Once he started kindergarten, he told me he didn’t want to wear overalls anymore. I was sort of sad, but he wanted to look like the other kids and I guess he noticed that none of them was wearing embroidered overalls. I even saved this pair (which is surprising for me). I can hardly believe I didn’t finish that pocket — I must have run out of turquoise floss.

I used to do a lot of embroidery on clothing — especially denim. In the sixties I embroidered jeans, jean jackets, skirts, shirts and bags for myself and my friends. There were lots of peace signs, flowers, birds, mushrooms and psychedelic designs. It would be fun to see that stuff again, but as I said. . . I generally don’t save clothing, but sometimes I wish I did.


Elliott Gray, 1985

Elliott Gray, 1983


Floral Patchwork Table Topper #2

I just finished this second floral table topper, made with some of the same fabrics as the first one posted last month. This topper contains a smaller selection of vintage fabrics, but it has the addition of some old, hand-crocheted edging. The patches were already cut, so I was thrilled to discover that I had enough of this edging to go around the cloth, and also the scallops fit just perfectly in the squares — it’s so great when things work out like that. Just like the other topper, it is machine quilted in the ditch, but this one is backed with a reproduction print.

These little cloths are so fun to make and sew up quickly (except for the hand stitching on the edges). It is 41″ square, including the edging. I hope my sister likes it.





1945 French Coloring Book

This is a little coloring book (6″ x 8″) with only 14 pages — with the exception of page yellowing, it is in perfect condition. Linda Lou’s daddy might have bought this for her in France while he was waiting to be shipped home at the end of the war. My father was in France around this same time — he had to wait quite a long time for a ship.  My mother saved all of his letters (there are hundreds), and a few are addressed just to my sisters, Jean Ann and Sally. Jean Ann was just starting school and Sally was a baby, and the letters to them are very sweet.

The blackface guitar player seems odd for the late forties, but I think these types of images appeared later in Europe than in the United States.











Crocheted Doily #2

Last week when I was taking photos of some of the things I’ve made for my sister, Sally, she brought out this little doily which I had forgotten about. My mother-in-law also showed me a doily on one of her bedroom walls that I made for her. When I saw them, I did remembered making them, but when I wrote this post about the doily I crocheted for my mother, I said it was the only doily I ever made. It was a long time ago (the late 70’s), but still — it’s not like I made tons of doilies, so you’d think I would remember.

Crocheted Doily
Martha Dellasega Gray, 1979



Flower Garden Applique Doll Quilt

I wish I could remember where I saw this quilt pattern. It must have been in one of my books, but now I can’t find it, of course — this is always a problem for me. The original quilt may have had 2 petals, because I vaguely remember my husband telling me it would look better with another petal — advice I ignored as you can see. If anyone is familiar with this pattern, please let me know.

This quilt was made in 2002 — it was the first doll quilt I made for my sister, Sally. The flowers and the prairie points are vintage dress fabrics and the green is also vintage. It is all hand stitched except for the prairie points which I sewed on the machine because they were a little bulky. The hand quilting consists of an outline around the flowers, diagonal quilting in the white, and a little motif in the green triangles. I think this is the smallest doll quilt I have made.

All three of these little quilts are displayed on the walls of my sister’s bedroom.

Flower Garden Applique Doll Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2002
hand pieced & appliqued, hand quilted
13″ x 17″




Rob Peter to Pay Paul Doll Quilt

There are many quilt patterns referred to as RPTPP — two of the most common are the one that looks like Orange Peel and this design, which is essentially a set of 4 Drunkard’s Path blocks. I first saw this quilt in one of my books from the 70’s — Once Upon a Quilt — by Celine Blanchard Mahler. I’ve never made a large version of this pattern, but I loved the quilt and thought it would be fun in a miniature size.

The original quilt is dated 1890 and, although some of the fabric choices are kind of strange, I was really drawn to it. I tried to pattern my quilt after the original and wanted it to have that same funky look. The fabrics are mostly from the 30’s – 50’s, but there are a some that are much older, including a couple of mourning prints — it’s a real hodgepodge. The green border fabric is a reproduction.

This is another quilt given to my sister, Sally. It is entirely hand pieced and is hand quilted in a diagonal grid in the blocks and a 3 row scallop in the border. The blocks are 2 1/2″ finished.

Trivia: Around this time I made a second quilt in the same size and pattern (with different vintage fabrics) and sold it on ebay — my first and only attempt at selling something I’d made. The quilt sold for $25 and the buyer was happy — “THE best doll quilt I ever bought from a miniature quilt designer!!! GORGEOUS!!” — so that was nice. I figured out that if I went into the doll quilt making business, I would be working for about $.50 an hour.

Rob Peter to Pay Paul Doll Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2003
hand pieced, hand quilted
19″ x 21 1/2″


Rob Peter to Pay Paul Quilt
Sarah J. Hann, 1890
Manchester, Maryland



Postage Stamp Basket Doll Quilt

This little quilt was made for my sister, Sally, in 2004. The basket design is based on a USPS 13¢ stamp series issued on March 8, 1978. I think I remember that the 4 stamps were connected with all of the handles toward the middle, which is the set you usually see for this block. I noticed that when my 4-block units were connected, the white areas formed a design that I think is distracting. When I drafted the block, I changed the design just a bit because the base triangles seemed too big and the handle too thick which I thought made the basket look sort of squatty. The reduction of the base triangles enlarged the white pieces and resulted in the rectangular areas you see in the completed quilt. I’m conflicted about this — although I prefer my basket,  I think the white areas look better in the original basket design.

The fabric for this little quilt is from some vintage bow tie blocks purchased on ebay. There were wonderful 30’s dress prints in the ties and coordinating solids in the 2 background pieces. I took them apart to make an appliqued butterfly quilt, and there was enough fabric left to cut 2 tiny baskets from each print (the second basket is going into a larger quilt). The border triangles are cut from vintage scraps using the same template as the small basket triangles. The finished block size is 3″ and the quilt was all hand stitched — the baskets are pieced with an appliqued handle.

Postage Stamp Basket Doll Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2004
hand pieced & appliqued, hand quilted
20″ x 20″



Embroidered Circus Quilt – Blocks 1 – 6

Here are half of the circus quilt blocks — they are so much faster to stitch than the alphabet blocks.  Two more rows and then I’ll start drafting the elephant border which I hope works okay with the size of my blocks. It would probably be more efficient to design the whole quilt at once, but I never seem to be able to do that — I prefer to just make decisions as I go.

These stripes are sort of a drag to deal with in the cornerstones. I’m not usually ultra-precise when sewing and this job requires precision and lots of pinning. The matching is not perfect, but I’m okay with it.



More Happy Hour Paint Book

I have finished stitching 4 more circus blocks, and should get them sashed and posted tomorrow. In the meantime, I thought I would share some more illustrations from this old coloring book.

Most of my coloring books from the 1930’s are very different from the other decades — they don’t have an overall theme and there are obviously several different artists included in one book. The styles vary wildly and some of them are pretty weird. This book had a few pages with Alice in Wonderland drawings which I thought were nice. These pages are very dark and brittle, so I had to take the book apart in order to scan it.






The Happy Hour Paint Book

This coloring book was published by Whitman in 1934 and the binding is falling apart. Fortunately, all of the pages are intact — although some of them are colored in, they are neatly done. I love so many of the illustrations in this book — there are lots of simple designs that are very unusual and I will share those later.

There are just a few pages of these grid pictures and I’ve never seen anything quite like them. The child was supposed to copy the drawing on the grid below the picture, which I think was a cool idea. I really like the designs — they would look cute stitched on even-weave fabric.







Embroidered Circus Quilt — Blocks 1 and 2

It took a long time to come up with a plan for this quilt. Originally I was going to use the print fabric as an alternate block, but when I layed out the fabrics, I didn’t like it at all. Next I decided to put the embroidered blocks in a straight set with striped sashing, and use the print fabric for the back — that seemed like a good idea, but I couldn’t decide what to do in the cornerstones. Since I didn’t want to introduce a new fabric, I decided to make little blocks with quarter-square triangles.

I’m thinking there will be 12 embroidered blocks with sashing — then a border all around the outside with embroidered elephants holding each other’s tails. The blocks are now 7″ with a 1 1/2″ sashing and the elephant border will be 6″ — everything had to be reduced a bit to fit the print for the back. It’s just going to be a little circus quilt. Thanks Chelsea Ann!



ABC Embroidered Quilt Top

This top was finished a few days ago, but I just got around to photographing it today. You’ll have to take my word for it that it looks much better in person. This is a hard quilt to photograph — for some reason the embroidered blocks always look sort of washed out (especially the lighter ones) but they actually show up much better in real life.

The top turned out much bigger than I originally planned. It’s certainly not crib-sized — more like a twin, I guess, which is fine. I don’t plan on adding any borders and probably just a solid colored binding. I purchased some ABC fabric quite a while ago for a back, but I think it’s too contemporary looking for this quilt. I’ll just have to keep looking around for something more appropriate. Anyway, I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, and feel like I’ve actually accomplished quite a bit over the summer.

Many thanks go to Vincent and Dorothy Fago for the wonderful illustrations in their ABC coloring book. Vincent had a long career beginning as an animator with Fleischer Studios — he died in 2002. Although Dorothy is also listed as illustrator in the 3 coloring books I have managed to find, I have no information about her. I am very grateful to both of them for their wonderful drawings.

A list of links to individual block posts is included at the bottom of this page. A pdf file of the entire coloring book, which contains illustrations I didn’t use in this quilt, is located here.

ABC Quilt Top
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2009
hand embroidered, machine pieced
68″ x 80″




Links to individual block posts:

A is for Alligator
B is for Bear
C is for Clown
D is for Doll
E is for Elephant
F is for Fireman
G is for Giraffe
H is for House
I is for Ice Cream
J is for Jack-in-the-Box
K is for King
L is for Lion
M is for Mailman
N is for Nurse
O is for Owl
P is for Puppet
Q is for Queen
R is for Rooster
S is for Sailboat
T is for Tiger
U is for Umbrella
V is for Violin
W is for Well
X is for Xylophone
Y is for Yak
Z is for Zebra


Vintage Monument Mills Woven Mother Goose Spread

I’ve probably mentioned a few times how much I love anything vintage with a Mother Goose theme (as well as ABC’s).  This is a spread I found on ebay — it still has the tag and looks brand new with no odor or dinginess. The spread is a bright pink with no fading at all — it’s light weight and soft.

Since I had never heard of Monument Mills, I did a little research. Here is a quote from an article that appeared in the New York Times in 1984 — “Chugging Through the Berkshires.”

Rising on the right, shortly after the river is crossed, is the brick complex of Monument Mills in the town of Housatonic. Monument Mills, founded in 1850 when the railroad was completed, came to reign for 60 years as the world’s largest producer of woven cotton bedspreads. The first workers were Irish immigrants who had fled the potato famines of the 1840’s, built the Berkshire line, and then stayed on to work in the mills.

I have no idea what I am going to do with it. It’s not like I don’t already have a bunch of quilts for any future grandchildren, but it’s vintage and Mother Goose and so cute. How could I not buy it.

Mother Goose Woven Spread
Monument Mills
45″ x 54″