Posts Written On November 2009

Vintage Bark Cloth Table Topper

One more present down — many more to go. Table toppers are so fun to make, and I think they’re especially pretty if you have some vintage decorator fabric scraps in your stash. These bark cloth pieces were left over from a round of tote bag sewing. Bark cloth is generally pretty expensive, but I try to find cutter or smallish pieces on ebay that are reasonably priced. Bunny will probably recognize this blue tropical — it’s the same fabric I used for her little bag. I was running out of the blue, so I had to piece the last 5 squares — I don’t think it’s too noticeable.

If you use old bark cloth in your patchwork, it’s important to examine the fabric for weak areas or tiny holes — the complex weave and patterns can sometimes disguise problem areas, and it’s such a drag to discover them when you are finishing a project. All of the fabrics are fairly heavy, so there was no need to add a batting. Because bark cloth is loosely woven, I machine quilted the topper on both sides of the seams to prevent raveling in the wash. I used blue thread in the bobbin because I did not want the stitching to show up too much on the backing — I knew it wouldn’t line up perfectly with lines in the plaid.

Bark Cloth Table Topper
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2009
machine pieced and quilted
42″ x 42″




Vintage Mother Goose Paint Book Pages

These are pages from a late 1930s paint book.  The 128 pages appear to be drawn by several illustrators, which was not usual in these very old coloring books. I think these Mother Goose pages have a unique and interesting style. Of course, I was also thinking they would make wonderful quilt blocks, but I might remove the borders and fill in the missing lines on some of the characters.  A few of the pages were colored in, and I didn’t take the time to completely clean them up.

Update:  Recently I discovered some line drawings by Fern Bisel Peat which are very similar in style to these — I think these uncredited illustrations may be hers.

Mammoth Paint Book
Whitman Publishing, 1939


Rail Fence Baby Quilt

This little quilt was made with scraps from vintage floral sheets and pillowcases which I purchased on Etsy.   The fabric is mostly 50/50 polyester and cotton blend — it’s very soft, but not as nice to sew with as 100% cotton fabric.  Because the patterns are so similar and there was no way to create contrast, I decided to put sashing between the blocks.  The quilt is tied with embroidery thread and bound with the same strips I cut for the blocks.

Rail Fence Baby Quilt
Martha Dellasega Gray, 2009
machine pieced, tied with embroidery floss
45″ x 45″


Here’s the cute recipient of this Christmas present — little Aubrey with her great grandmother, my sister Jean Ann.



Lord Baltimore Quilt Pieces

I’ve been very busy lately working on my Christmas gifts. The embroidered basket quilt is going well — the center quilting is finished and I’ve quilted about half of the border. The second embroidered pillowcase is languishing, but today I should be able to finish the top of  a Rail Fence baby quilt made with vintage sheeting.

Last week I received an item I won on ebay for $10. It’s one of the my favorite things — an old box filled with vintage quilt pieces. It has “Lord Baltimore” on the top, but no other identification — it’s 6.5 x 8 x 2 and stuffed full of little 1″ x 2 1/4″ pieces. They have a slight angle — a bit less than an inch on one end and a bit more on the other. They look like pieces for a Double Wedding Ring quilt, but if so, they are some of the smallest pieces I’ve seen. Barely noticeable, the quilter wrote in pencil on the inside bottom of the box —

green – 309
pink – 360
lavender – 326
blue – 354
yellow – 324
odd – 125
16 X 14 = 224
224 x 13 = 2912
(48) corners
(28) blks off

I like the “odd” and I have no idea what “blks off” would be or why there would be 48 corners. I wish she had drawn a picture or written the name of the pattern. I’m still very happy to have ended up with her little box, and hope I can make something she would have liked.



Embroidered Basket Quilt — a change

There was something about that printed border on this quilt that just didn’t look right to me. I’m not sure what it was — maybe there was too much red — but something bothered me, even though I truly love that fabric. Finally, I just removed both borders and replaced them with a more subtle blue and a plain muslin. The quilting in the border is done with larger-than-normal stitches and 2 strands of floss instead of quilting thread.

I’m much happier with the quilt now, but I still haven’t decided how to quilt the center. The binding will be a blue print in a shade similar to the narrow border.



Emily’s Halloween Costumes

Emily just sent some photos of her Halloween costume this year. It’s from one of our favorite movies, The Birds. Amazingly, there are people who have never seen the movie, or any other Hitchcock movie for that matter. I think that’s just sad.

We managed to find a bottom-weight fabric that was close to the right shade of green and a pattern for an open jacket that was a pretty good match for the one the Melanie Daniels character wears in most of the movie. First, I had to make a “muslin” (as my friend, Jan, refers to it) because Emily is quite a bit smaller than the pattern’s size 8 — I made my muslin out of an old tablecloth. I cut down a t-shirt of mine for the top — it was hard to find a match for that green color.




Emily didn’t win the prize at her office party, but I think the costume is pretty good — if I do say so myself! Last year she did win wearing a costume that was a bit more work than the one I made this year.



Appliqued & Embroidered Butterfly Quilt on ebay

Several years ago I saw this fabulous embroidered butterfly quilt top on ebay. I can’t remember what it sold for, but it was a lot more than I was willing to pay. I did, however, save the photos because I loved it so much and thought someday I would make a similar quilt. I am guessing these butterflies were the quilter’s original designs (and not a from a pattern) because they are so unique. It’s not clear exactly how many butterflies were on the quilt, but there are quite a few detailed photos. I think I could probably make up some of my own designs, but I would also copy some of these patterns.

Because I was so inspired by the originality of this quilt, I thought there might be others out there who would feel the same.







Embroidered Pillowcase

These pretty vintage pillowcases with the filet edging were purchased on ebay. For some reason they are huge, so I am going to cut them down a bit on the other end. I adapted the designs from the J. F. Ingalls embroidery catalog published in 1886. Scans of the catalog are available on John Governale’s web site. My other pillowcase will be a pansy pattern, with flowers stitched in variegated floss and the same green for the leaves.




My First Apartment

I found another photo where you can just see Bette rocking out to one of my records — probably The Beatles or The Who.


Here’s a photo of my bedroom. My sister and I went crazy with this funky stick-on-furniture — I had a stick-on headboard, picture frame — even a stick-on gumball machine. You can see that beginning in my early twenties, I had a fondness for anything vintage. Because I moved to Seattle with only my clothes, pretty much everything in my apartment (and much of my clothing) came from second-hand stores.


On top of my painted, wallpapered steamer trunk is a little Victorian house cut out of milk cartons and covered in tissue paper with inked details — another one of the projects with my sister, Sally. This was actually really tricky to make, but so cute lit up with a candle. I wish I could find that pattern now — I’d definitely make it again.


This is the outside of the building — that’s my sun room on the ground floor. God, I loved that apartment.



Make It Yourself – Beaded Alphabet

Recently I purchased an entire set of “Make It Yourself” books — 20 volumes of neat 70s projects, including knitting, crochet, sewing, embroidery, rugs, crafts, and of course…..macrame. These were published by Columbia House in 1973 and each volume came with it’s own folder of full-sized patterns — all the other patterns are in the books. My set has all of the patterns and an index — it’s so great. This cute beaded alphabet is from volume 14.

My sister and I each made a beaded hippie purse out of a car shammy and tons of seed beads. I thought it was difficult because the shammy kept stretching so the rows were hard to keep even. She and I made so many projects out of Woman’s Day and Family Circle magazines when I first moved to Seattle in 1970. My favorites were these styrofoam heads we covered in paper mache, molded to create facial features and painted — I think they were supposed to be wig holders, but I used mine to hold my giant headphones. Although it was not planned, my head ended up looking a lot like Bette Davis. Here’s a photo of Bette on top of my first television — a black and white tube “portable”  from the Goodwill that I painted and wallpapered.