Posts Written On April 2011

Vintage-Inspired Aprons – #13

It’s appropriate that this is apron 13, because it was a nightmare to make.  Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

The apron idea was inspired by 4 leftover reproduction hankies from apron #1.  I knew I wanted to make a handkerchief hem, but it took me longer than it should have to come up with a design and a technique for the construction.  Things began to go wrong when I started to sew some cute trim around the hankies that ended up being too short, so a compromise second trim was finally selected.   After it was applied, I decided I didn’t like it, so I removed that trim and replaced it with the floral stripe you see here.  Because the hankies had a bright white background and the stripe was ivory, I figured I would just give the whole apron a light tea bath — what a disaster.  What was I thinking. . . the handkerchiefs were produced by Daisy Kingdom and are a cotton blend (unlike the similar and newer reproductions by Marcus Brothers which were all cotton).  They barely darkened, while the floral stripe turned very dark.  I had to remove the tea with Oxyclean, then brush the tea on each individual hanky until it sort of matched the stripe.

There were lots of other stupid mistakes, and I ended up spending almost the whole day yesterday working on this one silly apron.  After all that work, it’s not even one of my favorites.  The one good thing is that I got lots of practice with the rolled hem foot, which I am hoping to use with my wedding napkins.  Hemming corners with the foot is getting easier.



Vintage-Inspired Aprons – #11 and #12

An apron with an apron!  This is an old Wilendur napkin that I thought looked cute with the red printed gingham.  Although this is a pretty simple design, it took longer than any of the others because of the hand stitching.  I tried a little chicken scratch embroidery on the hem, and the binding on the napkin needed to be done by hand.  It would be fun to do that old-style apron with the kitchen towel attached to the waistband, but I don’t have a cute vintage towel with the right look.  It should be terrycloth with fringe, but most of those are just not that cute.

I used a fusible to attach these appliques which came from vintage drapery fabric remnants.  My favorite part of this apron is the adorable vintage rose print fabric which makes an especially cute big bow.  I think I need to do some more big bows, which don’t really take any more fabric than the smaller version.   My rolled hem attachment is perfect to use on the big bows.

I’m not completely sure how many aprons I need to make, but I think it will be around 20.  If I have any left over, I could always do a give-away.


Vintage Inspired Aprons – #9 and #10

These are really special aprons, because they’re made with some of my vintage French and German fabric.  I don’t usually hesitate to cut into old fabric pieces, but I have been collecting these for awhile now, and I have only used two little pieces before these aprons.  I purchase these prints from one of my favorite Etsy sellers —  Joan (mamaisonfrancaise), who lives in Volmunster, France.  The fabrics are beautiful pastel florals in a feedsack type of weave  that I believe may have been duvet covers in their previous lives.  About half of mine are monochromatic shades of lavender, blue, red and pink, and the other half contain multiple colors.  Joan also sells beautiful French linens.

On this apron, I cut the main fabric in half and stitched it together to make a fuller apron.  That made it too short, though, so I had to add a border fabric, which I think looks pretty cute with the sweet eyelet insert.  There wasn’t enough fabric for the whole sash, so I used a different floral for the sash facing.

The second apron is constructed with two florals and one plaid (from a new group I just purchased).  Apron sashes use more fabric than you might think, so it’s a challenge to find just the right amount of fabric to make it all work.  I always like to add pockets, if possible, so I was happy to have a small piece of the bottom border fabric left over to make a little pocket.


Vintage-Inspired Aprons – #7 and #8

Thank you so much to everyone who made comments on my aprons — I am really pleased that you like them.

My mother had an apron with a pocket border around the bottom, only hers had a sleeveless top and a very short pocket border just below the waist. I always liked that apron, but I never wore it as a child because it was much too big. My mother’s apron style was probably a lot more practical than this one, but I like mine anyway. The fabric with the floral squares made perfect individual pockets.

My favorite fabric to use in these aprons is an old glazed chintz. It’s so smooth, has a nice crisp feel, and keeps its shape. On this apron I was at first going to narrow the ruffle as it came up to the waistband in the back, but then decided to just continue the same ruffle width and attach the end of the ruffle to the waistband. Maybe I’ll try the graduated ruffle on another apron since I have lots more to make.


Vintage-Inspired Aprons — #5 and #6

Making these aprons is a lot like putting together a quilt with vintage fabric. Substitutions and compromises must be made along the way, although I enjoy the challenge of putting something together with stuff I have on hand. When I go to a fabric store to buy something particular for a project, I am often overwhelmed, frustrated, and end up leaving the store without purchasing anything. It’s just easier for me to purchase fabric I love (vintage or new) and let the prints inspire the project.

On this apron, I had just enough of the floral print left over to make a pocket by sewing two small pieces together, although it took me a little while to figure out how to cut the pocket and do the gathering to make it look right. The waistband is not actually scalloped on the top — that’s caused by the pins I used to attach it to the hanger. I really like that old floral print.

The pockets on this apron are small armchair doilies folded in half — this turned the bow motif upside down, but I thought it still looked cute. I was a little disappointed at first that I lined this vintage chintz apron with the same fabric, because I didn’t have any fabric left over for a sash. The next day I received a package of vintage eyelet fabric remnants which was just perfect for the sash, so I am pretty happy now.


More Vintage Inspired Aprons – #3 and #4

Two days in a row — I guess you can tell I’m having a good time with these aprons. It’s so fun scrounging around the sewing room looking for things to use as embellishment. The first apron is made from vintage yardage that reminds me of feedsack. I didn’t want to add pockets to this one because it would mess up the print design, so I added some tiny craft buttons left over from the package I bought for Shirley Temple’s coat. It’s probably going to be tricky ironing this one.

This next apron is vintage glazed chintz marked “Everglaze” which was a process allegedly guaranteed to keep it’s shine through many washings. The appliques on the pockets are old Vogart iron-on appliques. They came in a lot of Vogart sew-on chintz appliques (my favorite), and I wasn’t sure I’d ever use the iron-on type. Now I’m really glad I saved them, because they are actually pretty cute.


Vintage-Inspired Aprons – #1 and #2

My daughter often gets phone calls that begin something like this: “I just had this really good idea for the wedding, and I hope you like it because I’ve already started working on it.” She’s a good sport.

My latest idea is to make vintage-inspired aprons as favors for all the guests at the bridal shower I will be hosting some time in July. There are so many things I like about this project — the aprons are really fun to design and sew because each one is different; I get to use up all kinds of remnants in my ever-growing stash; and it’s a nice break from the embroidered napkins, which are not difficult, but so boring.

The aprons are being constructed with whatever I can find in my sewing room, using a combination of newer and vintage fabrics and trims. The vintage fabrics provide lots of inspiration, but I’ve also been looking online at photos of vintage pattern envelopes. There will be around 20 guests, so I hope I don’t run out of ideas — I think I’ll just stick with half aprons.


Alice Brooks Quilt Pattern – Joseph’s Coat

Joseph’s Coat is a fairly challenging pattern, and it’s also one of my all-time favorite scrap quilts. There is no date on this pattern, and I can’t read the date on the original envelope. Alice Brooks was another name used by Needlecraft Service, Inc., the same company that published Laura Wheeler patterns, so it was probably published in the 30s. Here is link to a pdf copy of the pattern for printing purposes.

A couple of years ago, I purchased about 800 vintage petal shaped quilt pieces on ebay. The quilter probably planned to make either a Joseph’s Coat or one of the other Orange Peel type patterns. I suspect she may have used sample swatches, although they seem a little large at 2″ x 6″, because there are no exact duplicates, and some of the patterns appear in different colorways. It’s a fabulous collection, but there are fewer yellows than the other main 30s colors, which is annoyingly common in these lots of old quilt pieces. The fabrics were clean, so all I had to do was starch and re-cut them with a new template. In one of my books there is nice old Joseph’s Coat quilt with a pink background, but I think I just like a plain white with all these colors.

I got it into my head that I could machine stitch this pattern, so I made a sample block. It’s okay, but I prefer hand stitching curves, and this is going to sound weird, but I like the way hand stitching looks. You can just make out the little stitches, and it has a soft look to the seams that appeals to me. Anyway, I’m ripping out this block, but at least you can see how it’s going to look one of these days.


Laura Wheeler Quilt Pattern – Star of the Night – 1936

Over the past 10 years, I have collected lots of vintage quilt patterns.  I am now in the process of scanning and cleaning all of my newspaper and mail order patterns (the most fragile), both as a method of preserving them, and to share with other quilters.  Because so many people sell copies of these patterns, I am going to watermark the images.  This is not to pretend that I own a copyright on the patterns (as some sellers of copies claim), but just to discourage others from selling my images, since I want them to be free.  Some of the mail order pattern sheets are pretty big, but I will try to retain the original document sizes whenever possible.

Let’s begin with Laura Wheeler, which is one of the names used by Needlecraft Service, a mail order pattern company located in NYC in the 1930s.  Needlecraft also published designs for crochet, knitting and embroidery.  The patterns were advertised in local newspapers and were usually priced at 10¢.  Laura Wheeler patterns are generally complex, with many pieces and set-in seams, but they are also very pretty.  On these large mail order patterns (23″ x 19″), there was even room for a drawing of the whole quilt. You will notice that the yardage table lists two fabric widths (32″ and 36″), so you would want to make an adjustment for modern fabrics. The envelope containing this pattern is postmarked 1936.


You Can Make It – Easter Favors & Flowers

More from the 1943 book, You Can Make It – Things To Do With Scissors and Paste.  Some of the crafts in this book seem pretty hard for children — even older children.  These Easter favors are so cute, but honestly, I think the whole tiny strips of paper as hair idea would be tricky even for me, and I’m pretty confident it wouldn’t look nearly as good as it does in these adorable illustrations.   I can’t help it, though —  I’m going to have to try making at least one.  The flowers, at least, look doable.



Charley Harper Water Drop Quilt – Progress

It’s funny — I love collecting and sharing all kinds of vintage and antique embroidery patterns and transfers, but I rarely stitch these patterns myself. For some reason I am always attracted to vintage book illustrations — always trying to figure out how I can adapt them to embroidery and quilting. When the illustration is from a coloring book, it’s simple. When it’s from a book like this it’s more of a challenge, but that’s what makes the project fun. On two of these new motifs, I have even used a little acrylic paint, which works well in very small doses .


Charley Harper Water Drop Quilt – WIP

My next Christmas project is a quilt using a Charley Harper illustration from “The Giant Golden Book of Biology,” published in 1961 (now out of print and very rare). The image was scanned at a high resolution from my Todd Oldham book, “Charley Harper – An Illustrated Life,” a Christmas gift from Gordon. To make the pattern, I changed the image to black and white, ramped up the contrast, and then used the free program “Tiler” to tile print a 23″ x 52″ drop.

This will be a whole cloth quilt — the first one I’ve ever made. Although I’ve had the idea to do this quilt for some time, it was difficult finding the right fabric for the background. Over the weekend I finally found a piece that I think is really good — I had been thinking of a batik, but couldn’t find anything that worked. A couple of seams had to be added to get the correct size, and still maintain the horizontal look I wanted.

The little animals and plants will be stitched in both embroidery and applique, and I think I’ll probably quilt it with wavy horizontalines. It’s a lot of fun to work out which techniques and stitches I’m going to use for the each little motif. That’s one down, and 32 more to go.

Update: The quilt is finished — you can see it here


Vintage Anne Orr Mosaic Rose Quilt Kit

Here is something I really appreciate — for over 80 years, some nice person kept together every item of this quilt in progress. Large pieces of the colored fabrics were included, as well as a tiny illustration from a Lockport leaflet and a hand-colored drawing by the quilter.

Apparently, the quilter had just that tiny clipping as her inspiration, and no instructions. She spent lots of time calculating stuff that I can’t quite make out — probably how many squares of each color she would need and how much yardage to purchase.

She got started hand piecing the little squares together, but she couldn’t seem to figure out a method that worked. There are just a few odd shaped block pieces with lots of seams unpicked. One problem I noticed right away is that she decided to switch from using her sandpaper and cardboard templates to ripping the fabric. I’m sure she got frustrated cutting all those little squares (too bad she didn’t have a rotary cutter!). Of course, her little pile of ripped squares are slightly misshapen and have fuzzy edges, which makes accurate piecing nearly impossible.

Here is a photo I found on ebay of a completed Anne Orr quilt that is very similar, except it has two rows of blue.

Of course, you can tell from the fabric and the pattern that this quilt is from the 1930s, but it’s also nice to have a real date. Isn’t it great that she just happened to use the back of this scrap of paper to make some of her notes. . .

I’m sorry she had a lot of trouble with her quilt project, but, like many of my best finds, her loss is my gain. I’m not sure how many blocks I’m going to be able to make from this fabric, and I don’t intend to try and calculate it — I’ll just start making them and see how it goes. Thank you unknown quilter (and unknown quilter’s family) for preserving this wonderful piece of history for me.