Posts Written By Martha

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on Emily’s latest Halloween costume. This year she asked me to make the Cyndi Lauper outfit from the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” video, which was, appropriately, a lot of fun to make. It’s a coincidence, since I recently posted a squaw apron pattern, and the skirt Cyndi wears in the video is a thrift shop squaw skirt, probably from the 1950s.

As you can tell from the photo below, Cyndi’s skirt is very full. I decided to make Emily’s skirt with circular tiers, instead of the straight ones called for in my vintage pattern — it’s still very full, but less bulky and heavy. It’s a little trickier to sew the trim on a curve, but I like the way it turned out — the bottom of the skirt is just short of 9 yards long.

Here’s Emily . . .


and here’s Cyndi . . .


Of course, we couldn’t find anything like these weird tribal mask earrings Cyndi wore, but I thought I could make them with Sculpey clay, and that’s exactly what I did.



Liberated Basket Quilt-a-Long — Fishy Border

I live on the Pacific Northwest coast, so of course I’m going to make salmon for my fish border. Still, even though I came up with an idea right away, it took me forever to stitch them, and I just barely finished in time. Also, I ran into the same problem I had with the log cabin blocks — the scraps I was working with were too small. My solution this time was to make Susan McCord style fish, and I’m actually pretty happy with my patchwork salmon.

I made templates from some images I found online, but the details on the fish were small, and I was struggling with my normal baste and pin method. I ended up using the dryer sheet technique to prep them, except I substituted sheer-weight interfacing because it doesn’t melt when you iron it the way dryer sheets do. Using the interfacing produced a salmon that was a bit thicker and tricker to stitch down than my normal technique, and they also have a slightly puffy look to them in person, but the details (fins, tail and mouth) look better. The top ended up at 58″ square.

Click to enlarge the image if you want a closer look at the fishy border. It’s weird — something I never would have chosen on my own — but I like it a lot. Thanks, Wendy, for the inspiration.




Free Pattern Friday — Jane Alan’s Basket Quilt with Appliquéd Flowers

These clippings have no identifying newspaper or date, but I was able to find some information about Jane Alan and her patterns on the Quilt History Tidbits website. A new quilt pattern was published each week during the early 1930s, and templates were provided. This series of four baskets were constructed on point with checked gingham for the basket and a coordinating solid color handle. The blocks are 10″ square, so approximately 14″ diagonally. I calculated the design to take up about 70% of the diagonal space, so I sized each half of the floral design at 5″ wide, or 10″ total across the basket.

Although the article states that four blocks are to be made from each design, there are no instructions for how to set the 16 blocks. The quilter had to request a free pamphlet in order to receive a diagram of the quilt with complete instructions.

Click on the images to view, download or print the pdf patterns.






McCall’s Monday — Design for Children’s Outline Motifs

These catalog illustrations are tiny, but hopefully they are simple enough, and I’ve scanned them at a high enough resolution, that you will be able to trace them.

Simple and attractive are the little picture motifs shown above for working in colored strand cottons. Flower girl in center is 3 1/8″ x 3 1/4 inches, 2 given. There are 6 umbrella girls, 4 of the boy-and-dog and 2 each of the 4 remaining motifs. A colored illustration like this in pattern serves as a working guide.

mccall-1641-a mccall-1641-b mccall-1641-c mccall-1641-d mccall-1641-e mccall-1641-f mccall-1641-g


Free Pattern Friday — Jungle Picture Embroidery Pattern, 1923

Tiny Fingers Can Turn This Jungle Picture Into a Beautiful Cushion Top


“Here is a gift that the tiny seamstress can make for Grandmother or Aunty. The entire pattern should be worked in simple stitches and when finished it will make a nice cover for a pillow. Use white or colored lines and transfer the design with carbon paper. Use outline stitch for the elephant, the trunks of the palm trees, center of the leaves, and the long lines forming stalks and blades of grass. For the short blades of grass and leaves of the trees, use single stitch. Work the elephants eye in satin stitch. The outer line forming a frame is part of the design, so do not forget to embroider it. Use black for the frame, for the elephant, and the birds (in the sky). Various tones of green, yellow and blue should be used for the foliage. If natural colored linen is used, the design works up very effectively in a single color, preferably delft blue or red.”

Fort Wayne Sentinel, 1923


McCall’s Monday — Child’s Picture Patch Quilt, #1633

I’ve always loved this pattern, which appears in my May, 1929 catalog, McCall’s Designs for Needlework and Decorative Arts. People often refer to it as a circus quilt, and I can understand that, but there’s no circus reference in the catalog description.

My scaled drawings are copied from the catalog illustration. The illustrator eliminated some of the seams, so two sizes of rectangles were added to the squares and triangles. That’s also how I would have drafted the pattern — no need to create unnecessary bulky seams, which just make hand quilting more challenging. It does, however, mean that each block has to be sewn together differently — and in chunks rather than rows.

The description states that the quilt is 40″ x 57″, which helps in figuring out the block size. The original pattern would have included templates, which are not necessarily friendly measurements for rotary cutting, so I tried to come up with some easier numbers. If you made each finished square 1.75″, the block size would be 14″. To make the sashing about the same scale as it appears in the drawing, it would need to be about 2 1/2 squares wide, which is actually 4.375, but you could do either 4.25″ (quilt size 40.75″ x 59″) or 4.50″ (quilt size 41.5″ x 60″), depending upon how wide you like the sashing. Remember, I’m talking about finished sizes here, so you would need to cut strips 2.25″ wide to make your squares/rectangles.

Some old quilts I’ve seen in this pattern did not have embroidered details, but they are included here because I like them, although I had to sort of guess what they looked like from the fuzzy picture. The elephant didn’t appear to have an eye, so I added one.













Tops From the Trunk — Unknown Diamond Pattern

I love this unusual pattern, but I have not been able to find a name or photo anywhere. If you have any information about the pattern, I would love to hear from you.

The diamond shaped pieces appear to be from the 1950s, with bright solids and small novelty and floral prints. Although it must have been tricky to piece, the quilter did a very nice job. It is square and pretty flat, with only some small puckering that should easily quilt out. The top was clearly made for a twin bed at 60″ x 83″ and is hand pieced.


The quilter used two colors of background fabric (one white and one cream colored), but all of the square pieces had turned brownish, as you can see in the photo below.


I took a chance that the top would clean up, and I was happy to see that an all night soak in hot water and Oxyclean removed most of the brown. Just a gentle machine washing was all that was left to turn this formerly grimy top into a little jewel.



Liberated Basket Medallion Quilt-a-Long — Star Border

Once again, I spent about a week thinking about this border before I finally settled on a design. I had hoped to do an appliquéd border this time to balance all the pieces in the log cabin blocks, but I’m not that great at appliqué, and a star shape seemed too challenging. To make the stars stand out against the pineapple blocks, I used a smaller block size and hand stitched simple 4-pointed stars using chambray and linen scraps. Unfortunately, I ran out of the little stripe I was using for the narrow border, so I substituted the checked fabric from the basket.

This has been such fun, and I’m sad that the quilt-a-long is winding down. I also learned that I am apparently incapable of creating a liberated quilt, and I’m finally okay with that.

The fish border is perfect for me since I live in the Pacific NW, and we love our fish. My mind is swimming with possibilities!