Posts Written On February 2016

Vintage Quilt Top — Crazy Courthouse Steps

The last top I quilted was a wonky antique log cabin variation. This Courthouse Steps version is much crazier in every way — design, fabric selection, and construction (the only consistent element is the red center square in every block). It’s not completely flat, the foundation stitching is too big, and the edges are not straight (the photo is cropped). Despite all its flaws, and even though it’s unlike any quilts I make, I think it’s wonderful and has a sort of cool Gee’s Bend vibe.

The top was probably constructed no earlier than the 1940s, and this quilter obviously had an amazing scrap bag to work with. The top contains fabrics spanning decades — from 19th century mourning prints and indigos all the way to 1930s pastels and 1940s bright florals. Somehow, for me, it all just works.

Fortunately, the top is clean with no damage, stains, smells or inappropriate fibers — although there are a few pieces of seersucker that I’m not going to bother replacing. I will need to do some close quilting to get it flat and keep everything secure.

So, are you a fan of this craziness, or is this just too much?

Crazy Courthouse Steps Quilt Top
Unknown quilter, 1940s
76″ x 80″






McCall’s Monday – Peasant Embroidery

Peasant embroidery made a comeback in the 1970s, when I made several shirts with embroidered peasant designs. I even tried one very similar to the smocked Mexican style below. Argh! Why did I give all those clothes away!

I wish I had the actual McCall’s transfers for these patterns, but, as a substitute, I do have some peasant designs from a series of “make it yourself” books published in the 1970s by Columbia House.



peasant-embroidery-MIY-1 peasant-embroidery-MIY-2 peasant-embroidery-MIY-3


Free Pattern Friday — The Infant of Prague and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux Embroidery Transfers

I attended St. John’s Catholic School in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, through the eighth grade, and one of my favorite activities was collecting holy cards. The nuns (Ursulines, who all wore habits) would give out holy cards as rewards for all kinds of things, so,  even though I was an average student, I had quite a collection. The Blessed Virgin Mary was my favorite, but Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was a close second. This wall hanging design is exactly like my best Saint Thérèse holy card, with the crucifix and the roses.

I always loved the Infant of Prague because he’s like a little doll. The original statue is only 19″ tall, and because he had elaborate jeweled vestments for different occasions, people would often make clothing for their reproduction statues.

Clicking on the pattern image below will open a full-sized pdf file. Scroll to the bottom of the image, and click on the download button. Open the downloaded file in Acrobat Reader, and select “poster” in the print dialog box. This will allow you to tile print the original pattern size on multiple sheets of letter or legal sized paper, which you can then trim and tape or glue together. The transfers are not reversed, as I assumed you would be tracing them directly onto fabric. If you are going to go over the printout with a transfer pencil, you will need to reverse the image first. The instruction sheet for both patterns is available here.




WIP Wednesday — Even More Denim Coverlet Squares

Yay! The denim squares are back. 121 are finished, 13 are prepped (mostly the rest of the alphabet), and there are 30 more to design. I’m having a mental block coming up with new ideas, but am hoping for a breakthrough very soon. It’ll be exciting to move on to the next phase of this project — backing the squares with reproduction fabrics, and blanket stitching the edges with perle cotton.


McCall’s Monday – Wraparound Apron & Dress

To me, this apron seems excessive, even if it is supposed to be for “company.”  An apron doesn’t need to provide all that coverage, and if you’re going to put that much work into it, you might as well just make an actual dress.

The wrap dress below reminds me so much of my mother, who always wore dresses when I was little. She had nice dresses for church and for going to town, but most days she wore cotton house dresses. The catalog suggests that this dress is “a smart uniform for housewives . . . that will keep you cheerily at your chores!” I love that little bud embroidery.


Here is my mother wearing a typical outfit, with me and my older sister, Sally. This photo is from 1947, just a few years after this catalog was published.



Free Pattern Friday — Summer and Winter Quilt, Alice Brooks #5867

This is the first pattern in my new weekly series, Free Pattern Friday. Because many of these quilt and embroidery patterns are large (this one is 14.5″ x 19″), they will need to be tile printed. Clicking on the pattern image below will open a full-sized pdf file. Scroll to the bottom of the image, and click on the download button. Open the downloaded file in Acrobat Reader, and select “poster” in the print dialog box. This will allow you to tile print the original pattern size on multiple sheets of letter or legal sized paper, which you can then trim and tape or glue together.

I will be going back and changing all my previously posted large patterns to pdf format so they can be printed this way, but it’s going to take some time.

Household Arts by Alice Brooks

Quilt of Simple Change-About Design — Summer and Winter

Take time out to begin this striking Two Patch quilt, called “Summer and Winter” by reason of its snowy and flowery patches. The change-about design made by but two pattern pieces lends novelty and effectiveness that will surely gain the envy and admiration of your friends. Anyone, even a beginner, can piece these simple 8-inch blocks — accompanying directions are so clear; the “spare time” work so profitable! Pattern 5867 contains the Block Chart, accurately drawn pattern pieces; an illustration of the quilt; color schemes; step-by-step directions for making the quilt; and yardage requirements.



WIP Wednesday — More Denim Coverlet Squares

Yawn . . . time for more denim squares, and this is the interesting part. Just wait until I start showing you how each of them look with their black crocheted edging 🙂

This week I am adding another feature — Free Pattern Friday. I received a large bed scanner for Christmas, and now it’s much easier to scan my over-sized quilt and embroidery patterns, as well as the McCall’s Monday pages.


WIP Wednesday — More Denim Coverlet Squares

First of all, thank you so much for all your nice comments on this project. It was so fun to read your suggestions, some of which I have finished in time for this post (airstream, cup, ice cream cone, gingerbread man, cactus). A few of the suggestions might not happen because they require a shape that may be too narrow for my blanket stitching (needle & thread, bow & arrow), but please keep those ideas coming. I have lots more squares to make.

Also thank you for your kind words about my father-in-law. Although he is feeling better, we have decided the 24/7 care needs to be permanent, so I will be spending 3 days or evenings each week with Big G. I am trying to do most of my blogging there, and also attempting to organize my hand sewing for each visit so I have everything I need. We bought extra phone and laptop cables, because I’m always forgetting them. I know many of you who are around my age must be dealing with aging parents, and it can be a difficult. My parents and my brother (who are all deceased) were fortunate to have four girls in the family to care for them. Gordon’s parents just have us, but we live fairly close.

So . . . here are the new little denim squares, which you are probably getting pretty tired of by now.


McCall’s Monday — Dressing Tables

These dressing tables are so old-fashioned now, but I still love seeing them in old movies (Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca has one of the best). We even had one of the kidney-shaped dressers when I was little, and I remember my mother making a new skirt for it. Maybe she used this pattern.


I want to make a miniature dressing table for my new 1950s American Girl doll (Mary-Ellen Larkin), which my son and his girlfriend gave me for Christmas. Mary-Ellen is exactly 2 years and 2 days older than me, is the middle child in a similarly-sized family, and even looks a little like me when I was her age (same high bangs and long pony tail). I’m going to have so much fun reproducing my favorite outfits from the 1950s, which were either sewn by my mother, or bought for me by my oldest sister, Jean Ann, when she got her first real job.

Here we are at 9 years old. I’m wearing a dress from Jean Ann.