8000 Paper Plates and Thankfullness-giving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and so is tomorrow’s arrival of my grandchildren.  I love, love, love this time with them,  but not much else will get done.  So in advance of Thanksgiving Day, 2015, I am reposting memories from a few years ago.


thanx buffet guys

See that little hand reaching for a sample?


This was a wonderful Thanksgiving day. As in several past years, we celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends across the state, at the home of our son-in-law’s mother.  Always the gracious hostess and host and always fabulous cooks, Carol and her husband, Alan, prepare most of the traditional food.  The menu included roast turkey and pork loin, mashed potatoes, two gravies, and several sides, while the extended family guests bring desserts and more sides.     The desserts filled the entire table in the breakfast room.  With the exception of yours truly and my daughter (who studied the culinary arts from me), they are all fabulous cooks.


thanx towels 2cr


Late Wednesday night after my lemon pound cake was baked and my other dishes were prepped– stuffed baked pumpkin,  garlic green beans and corn pudding–I sewed.  Embroidered dishtowels are my standard Thanksgiving day hostess gift. The brown gingham-bordered towels are from AllAboutBlanks and the designs are a combination of files.  The fall leaf spray is from  Kreations by Kara Autumn Wreaths (a GORGEOUS collection)  and the text and pumpkins were added.


thankful towelcr

By mirror-imaging the same fall spray design and adding two different expressions of gratitude, this pair of towels is a more attractive set as they hang side by side.  The colors were varied on each towel, though that hardly shows up in the image.


blessed towel

We had such a good time visiting with extended family we see infrequently.  Among the guests were 90 year-old Ruby who drove herself to her son’s home with her fresh-from-the-oven pumpkin, pecan and strawberry pies.

Ten month old dgd Vivian Rose toddled throughout the enormous house, appropriating pieces of jewelry from others then blessing their required charity with her sweet smiles.  Four year old dgs Alastair  delighted his baby sister with his antics.  Three college boys chatted with us about football and their studies in criminal justice and chemical engineering.

But the most entertaining topic of the day was Judy’s pre-Black Friday score of two pallets of University of South Florida paper plates!  Herself an alumna of  USF, Judy’s son Matthew is a freshman there.  She and her husband couldn’t be more proud of him and and plan to support the university and their son in every way possible.

“It was a great deal!” she told us.  “A package of 50 plates marked down from $9 to $3!!!!”  When she saw that an entire pallet was available, she intended to buy them all.  But then the stock boy told her that there were 4 more pallets in the store room!  She thought she exhibited considerable restraint by loading up just one more pallet, generously leaving 3 for other USF fans.

We laughed and laughed when she said, “Well, he’s going to be there for 4 years!  AND we use a LOT of paper plates!  AND these are heavy duty AND coated!”  The more we laughed the more she  tried to justify her purchase.

“AND I had an empty shelf in the barn!” which was built to store her enormous and elaborate collections of holiday ornaments.  It is nearly full. This dear woman could have been Clark Griswold’s sister.

When we complimented her on the restraint she showed by leaving those 3 pallets, she announced that she had to save room in the barn for the USF paper napkins that would be on sale Black Friday.  I wonder if she will buy 8000 to pair up with the plates.

Now she is enthusiastically gearing up to use her new Brother embroidery machine to embellish shirts and other items with “USF.”  As I began suggesting sources for blanks, her mother, Ruby, told me to hush.  “Just how much room do you think  is left in that barn?”   Her dear husband smiled, but I  couldn’t tell if it was a smile of indulgence or resignation.

Sunday, our pastor’s sermon was on thankfullness-giving.  I liked that.  Among the many, many, undeserved blessings which have been showered upon me and  my family,  I am thankful for a kindred spirit like Judy, who understands and perhaps exceeds my slightly immoderate purchases.   And I am thankful for each of you, the readers of this blog.  I hope you all reveled in a day of laughter, good food and thankfullness-giving.

11 year old’s Etsy Shop

etsy lace heart pillow

This antique lace  pillow is the first product in granddaughter Laurel’s just opened Etsy shop,  SewAmazingGifts.  Measuring just 8.5 x 8.5,” it would be a petite reminder of sweet sentiments.  She has decided that the machine embroidered text could vary from a monogram, to other phrases such as “Friends,” Sister,” “Mother,” “Hope,” and more. The backing is vintage damask.

She has been earning money with sewing since she was 7, when she scored big at the county fair for her entries, including her first quilt. Her second quilt, Kisses and Hugs,   also won best-in-show, generating even more cash and incentive to sew.Then she started her little business, Laurel’s Specialty Sewing.  But the Etsy shop is another step up in the business world.

Of course,  I was excited when Laurel asked for my help designing products and setting up her shop.  We went to on-line and she was immediately taken with an image of a similar pillow.

“I want to make that!” she exclaimed.  And she wanted to make it now. She knew her Nana had all she would need to make a boat load of similar heart pillows.  She’s seen my stash.

A few bags of antique textiles were pulled out of storage bins and we got started.  It was so much fun!

Laurel has sewn with me enough to recognize tatting, hemstitching, cutwork and Swiss embroideries.  Then as we sorted through the the bags, she was introduced to coronation cord, chemical lace,  teneriffe, Irish crochet and more.  As per my suggestions, she selected a variety of textures.

It always amazes me how things work out.  Just a week ago, I seriously considered selling these same bags of vintage and antique textiles on the Yahoo group SewItsForSale   or the Facebook page Smocking DestashNOTE: this is a private group which operates on the premise that when members join with a recommendation from another member,  fewer problems are likely.  Let me know if you are interested in joining and we can chat about it.

I have loved these things for so long and have made a variety of crazy patch items of antique textiles.  One of my favorite all-time projects was “In the Pink of Life,” made for my sweet daughter.  But I have too many projects in my head to tackle another one like that quilt.  So I had almost resolved to get rid of them.

Then, Laurel claimed them and we are enjoying more sewing time together as she generates her inventory.

Honestly, I do not consider myself a hoarder, but my special fondness of antique textiles has generated a collection that is waaaaay too big.  I buy bits of vintage and antique needlework at estate sales, church bazaars, and yard sales.  Then friends who lack my appreciation for these special treasures gift me with things  they know I would enjoy.

I’m not picky.  Stained?  No problem!  Torn?  Who cares?  I can see past the imperfections and imagine projects which would give them new life.

Now, Laurel is giving them new life as she advances to a new business venture.  The store is open now so you can take a look at what this 11 year old has made for sale.

The Last Hurrah

Aliya, newly turned 4 years old

Aliya, newly turned 4 years old

This was posted a few years ago.  I came across it while looking for another photo and think it is worth posting again.  Aliya continues to be a delight and a beauty.  The dress is now scrap. But as I distribute the outgrown garments from our last and final granddaughter, Vivian Rose, the message is still meaningful.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seeing little girls in heirloom dresses just makes me purr with happy contentment.  And seeing a dress I made so long ago come back to life on another beautiful child is one more dividend for the time and effort that went into making it.


A standing

Everything they say about the timelessness of heirloom clothing is true.  Twenty-nine years ago, my blue eyed blond Rebecca frequently wore this to church as well as a few weddings.  She was a veritable Vision of Loveliness.  Then it was on loan to my dear friend Gale for her towheaded, blue-eyed Anna, Vision of Loveliness #2.  Anna wore it as much as Rebecca had.

Next it was loaned to another friend for brown haired, brown-eyed Cameron, VOL #3.  And a few days ago, golden-skinned, brown-eyed Aliya wore it to church and then to visit her great grandmother.  In my eyes, she stole the VOL crown from her predecessors.

Aliya’s mother is one of my Rebecca’s best friends.  When we tried the dress on Aliya, I was reminded of Cinderella’s glass slipper, meant for one specific young lady.  It seems the dress was waiting all these years for Aliya to bring it to the peak of its beauty.  And of course, the beauty is really this child.

Gazing at Aliya in this frock immediately takes me down Memory Lane.  As I look at the interesting features, I am a little surprised that I had enough confidence to take this on, as I had only been doing heirloom sewing for 18 months.  But then, I had extra motivation.

In the midst of planning her first Huntsville School of Art Fashion in the little blue house on Madison Street, Martha Pullen called asking me to teach a class on lace portrait collars.  “But Martha,” I lamented,” I have never made one!”  Martha calmly replied, “Well, the school is not for 5 months.  Surely you can learn!”  She has always instilled confidence in others.

collar scan

The collar is detachable.

So learn I did.  And I can promise you that every collar was as flat as a pancake.  I don’t know how many collars I made before I tackled this dress for a class sample but by the time the school came around, I could have hung a shingle declaring Professional Portrait Collar Maker.  Well, maybe Semi-Professional….

But back to the features of this dress.  Aside from the portrait collar of lace insertion, beading, edging and ribbon, the sleeve ruffle uses an interesting technique.  Details for the circular styled sleeve trim is detailed near the end of an earlier post.

A sits hands

Notice the circular sleeve ruffle.

The skirt fancyband consists of growth tucks and  a simple row of lace insertion surrounded by entredeux  threaded with floss.


That lace was not well inserted!

The ribbon carriers are made of entredeux with gathered lace edging.  Floss is threaded through the entredeux, mimicking the fancyband.

ribbon carrier

I wonder just how many times this dress has been worn and laundered.    Close inspection of the portrait collar shows that threads have been breaking down for some time.  Whatever the number, at Aliya’s visit with her great-grandmother, where these photos were taken, the dress was worn for the last time. The lace in the fancyband tore away from the entredeux and cannot be repaired without more trouble than it would be to make another.

But what does it matter?  I have seen four precious little girls look and feel like princesses wearing this dress.  I have no regrets that this was its last hurrah.

Thanks to Blanks–Quick Gifts

From ho-hum plain to sweet with the help of machine embroidery and spaghetti bias.

From ho-hum plain to sweet with the help of machine embroidery and spaghetti bias.


Lately, I’ve been in need of a variety of really fast projects, for a baby, a bride, a guy, a little girl and a young lady.  I know of nothing faster than starting with ready-made blank items.

I started with the baby gift.  Years ago I bought several of these blank bibs, bonnets and caps made of Aida cloth or with Aida cloth inserts.   You know how a technique strikes you suddenly.  Machine embroidered cross stitch–yup!


plain aida bibs

The plan was to embroider all of these bibs, bonnets and baby baseball caps.   But that didn’t happen.  Oh, I did embroider several for the pregnancy center our church supports.  But I sold most of them for a pittance.

When the needs rolled in for these in-a-New York-minute projects,  only one plain white one bib was left, though I’d rather have had one with blue gingham binding.  Why does it always happen that you have things lying around for years, then once they are gone you need them ASAP?  Who knows?

Even with the cross stitch embroidery, the white bib was boring.  So I pulled out some spaghetti bias from my stash and stitched it right on top of the white bias binding.  I was generally pleased with this little gift.

It seems to me that cotton thread makes machine cross stitch look more like hand stitching.  So the bib was stitched with 50 wt. DMC machine embroidery thread.  I really like that thread.

Then I moved on to something for the bride.  A new but vintage handkerchief from my collection was just what I needed for a second project.   The linen, hand crocheted edging and hemstitching fit the bill for “something old, something new, something borrowed (well, it COULD be loaned), and something blue.”  This was reeeeeally fast.


a simple little gift for a bride

a simple little gift for a bride, embroidered with 50 wt. DMC cotton t hread


For the little girl gift on my to-do list, again, All About Blanks had just what I needed.  This is my go-to source for ready-mades.  The product assortment is huge, the quality always great and the customer service is as good as it gets.

A pair of terry cloth slippers with brightly colored embroidery was just the thing for this little gal.  With the toe flap open, they are sooooo easy to embroider.




For the young lady, this cosmetic bag from All About Blanks,  was just what was needed.

The blue and white seersucker looks so fresh and clean. A colorful embroidery design and a monogram makes it a nice, but not over-the-top gift for a young lady.  Sometimes, the gift needs to be small so the recipient doesn’t feel beholden.  Other times, beholden is not such a bad thing 😉


cosmetic bagxx


While this was fairly quick to embroider, it required being turned inside out and stitched “in a cave.”  I’ve learned that when embroidering inside out, it is best to place the design as high as possible without looking out of place.

This same technique was used on several larger bags which was much more challenging.  Stitching this gift has me yearning for the new Brother Persona, a free-arm, single needle embroidery machine.  That would make embroidering bags, onesies and so many other items much easier to stitch.  Hmmmmm….

But it’s not all about the girls.  My quickie guy gift is a black jute koozie, again from All About Blanks.  Like the slippers, the koozie opens flat making for easy  embroidery and then closes with velcro.  Canned or bottled drinks stay cooler longer and hands don’t get so cold.  Of course, it’s football season (YEAH!!) so that guided my choice of designs.




The design was smaller than needed for the koozie, so it was nicely resized much larger on  my Brother Dream Machine.

What quick gifts have you made?  With Christmas around the corner, we could all use some new ideas.

A Small Token of Appreciation

Icolin and our Lab Rastus who adores her.

Icolin and our Lab Rastus who adores her.


This is my Jamaican friend Icolin.  I love her and so does our Lab Rastus.  She does my housework and keeps my home as orderly as she can manage while dealing with my untidy habits.   I am so grateful that she frees me up for more time in the sewing room.

More than that, she is a loving, serene presence who goes about her business humming–EVEN when she is trying to make her way through my sewing room.  No mess is too much for her.  Dependable, hard working and sweet as pie, Icolin is a devout Christian woman.   She shares my troubles, lives the gospel and prays faithfully for my family and any friends in need.  Icolin is a genuine treasure.


I love this woman.

I love this woman.


I wanted to do something to show my appreciation, even something as small as embroidering this apron for her.  When I gave it to her, she flashed her beautiful smile and thanked me in her musical Jamaican accent.  She loved it. I could listen to her lilting, island-girl talk for hours.


The crown is from Zundt's Regal collection.

The crown is from Zundt’s Heraldry collection.


It made me happy to offer her this small  token of appreciation for her hard work and loyalty.  Now that I think about it, there are many others who deserve some tangible expression of my gratitude.  But Icolin is at the top of my list.

Have you made a “small token of appreciation” for someone special in your life?  I’d love to hear about it.

Birthday Gift Pillowcases

1-2 pcases


My ongoing, escalating computer troubles came to a head today when the machine just plain died, right there on my desk.  It didn’t make a final death groan, but I made some pretty loud sounds.  Until the replacement arrives, I am using my husband’s laptop.  It’s like walking to the corner in someone else’s shoes.  You can get there, but it is not comfortable.

While the computer was in its terminal stages, I’ve wanted to share these pillowcases with you.  They were a birthday gift for my precious daughter, made with love in every stitch.  Rebecca is an amazing young woman, an incredible mother and wife, and the daughter anyone would love to have.  She dreams big, so these big, silky, pima pillowcases against her pretty face should help facilitate those dreams.

Much as she likes bright colors, she requested neutral tones.  Since they moved into their new home 17 months ago the walls have changed colors three times.  So for her home dec style, neutral is good. Continue reading

Halloween Bedtime

The Ninja pumpkin design is from  XXXand the witch -costumed koala is from an old Amazing Designs collection, Seasonal Daisy Kingdom.

Alastair’s pillowcase design is Embroidery Boutique’s Ninja Pumpkin design. Vivian Rose’s little witch -costumed koala is from an old Amazing Designs collection, Seasonal Daisy Kingdom.  The moon and stars were added.


Soooo busy!  I thought my “golden years” were supposed to be leisurely!  But they are not and I am not complaining about my full, rich, active life.  Still, a little leisure would be nice.

I know I have promised Part 2 of my post on lace tape, but that has been pushed to the back burner, due to new family demands and responsibilities.  I’m sorry about that but it will be posted as soon as I can get to it.

Aside from all the must-do’s I managed to squeeze out these Halloween pillowcases for my two younger grandchildren.   6 yo Alastair who is a big time Ninja fan, and Vivian Rose, 2.5 yo is delighted with anything.

The really fun feature of her pillowcase is the moon and stars, in the sky and on the witch robe.  After the success of her firefly dress with glow-in-the dark lightning bugs, I invested in several spools of glowing thread. It offers so many creative opportunities!!!! Continue reading

All About Lace Tape~Part 1

Lately, there have been considerable discussions and questions about lace tape, its origin and uses.  The history is quite interesting, as its development involved a salvage warehouse and an unraveled sweater for my Rebecca and midnight transatlantic phone calls. That was in 1987 when I first brought this product to the heirloom sewing public.

Most of this history is detailed in this post.  Because lace tape is one of my favorite sewing products, I’d like to share some applications and techniques.  For many years I taught a 6-hour class around the country.  So there is a lot of material on the subject, too much for one post.  Lace tape can be used for shadow applique’, colored entredeux, colored shark’s teeth, tiny piping and so much more. So stay turned for details.  A few future posts will feature projects with detailed directions.


Approximately 3/8″ wide and available in a rainbow of colors, lace tape is a loosely woven 100% cotton trim.  It has a gathering thread on each side and is wonderful for lace shaping.  It also can add a bit of color to an heirloom project.

lt 2 examplesrecol

Now there are two varieties of lace tape:  Japanese and Swiss.  The lace tape shown above and used on each of the items pictured below is Japanese.


1.  for lace insertion substitute joined to lace edging or other insertion


Peach lace tape was joined to lace edging and then stitched to flat bishop before smocking. See Molly’s Lace Tape Nightie for more pictures and information.


preparation:  Like heirloom trims, lace tape is easier to work with after being starched and pressed, unless it is being shaped.  Use the finest thread, preferably 80/2 Madeira Cotona,  and  the smallest needle appropriate to the thread size.

technique:  Butt lace tape to lace.  Zig zag the two pieces together with an approximate stitch setting of W 1.5-2.0, depending on width of lace header, L .8-1.0 edging.  NOTE: An edge joining foot makes this much easier.


1-lt to lionsxx

Lace tape joined to Aesop’s Fables Binche lace.

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Fan Team Gear


Creative Needle, June, 2005

Creative Needle, June, 2005


Hurrah, football season is here! Like families around the country, we look forward to kickoff.  As huge Florida Gator fans, every Saturday in the fall we hunker down for a full day of football, in front of the tv or at the stadium.


FL gator sign


Tradition dictates that everyone wear their “colors” on Game Day. The grandchildren keep outgrowing their team gear, so,  like  many of you, I’m trying to get them suited up for kickoff.


1-L first gator

Laurel was just 3 weeks old when we attended the annual Gator Nation gathering at the Daytona Speedway. She wore this cool, Swiss cotton pique top with pima check bloomers.

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Coming Home Daygown and Bonnet

Busy, busy, busy!  So this post is a re-run featuring Laurel Cade, our first grandchild and her homecoming outfit.  I think the topic is still timely.~~~~~~~


my handsome son (newborn at 9 lb.1oz) and his 10 lb.daughter

my handsome son (who was a 9 lb.1oz newborn) and his 10 lb.daughter

My babies  each weighed exactly 9 lbs. 1 ounce and were 22″ long.   My husband said my uterus had a 9 lb. 1 oz. capacity, just like a gallon milk jug will hold just one gallon.  He declared that if we had a dozen children they would all be the same size.   After our second child, I chose not to test his hypothesis.

At any rate, neither of our babies wore newborn clothes for more than a few weeks.

When our dearly loved, petite daughter-in-law Shelly was pregnant with our first grandchild, the whole family thought this precious baby would be a tiny little thing, like her mama.  After all, Shelly’s  own mother is just 4’11” so we expected a small baby.   With this in mind, I used a preemie daygown pattern for Laurel’s coming home outfit.

Imagine our  shock when this “small”  baby girl was born via C-section weighing an even 10 lbs! I had other regular size daygowns smocked and ready to go, so I took those to the hospital the day they were to be released.  But they were all too big.

We were surprised that the preemie daygown fit her perfectly.  Of course, she was only able to wear it for a short time, but I was glad that she had something that fit so well for that important trip home. Now, whenever I make a coming home daygown for a special baby, I make a preemie size.

coming home gown L

The daygown and bonnet are pale yellow Imperial batiste, smocked in shades of yellow and periwinkle blue.  Entredeux and tatted edging trim the angel sleeves bishop and either side of the front.  Blue floss is woven into the holes of the entredeux.

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