Contemporary Heirloom?

pillocase br


This pillowcase and its mate will be included in a wedding gift I am putting together for my cousin’s daughter.  The first and only time I saw Jordan was when she was 14 and spent a week with us learning to sew.  Now she has just graduated from University of Nebraska and will be married next week by her father in the church he pastors.

Sewing for others always requires at least a cursory consideration of their personal taste. When her grandmother (my sweet Aunt Rheeta) told me the wedding colors were black and white, and  then the very contemporary invitation arrived, I knew Jordan was a 2012 Thoroughly Modern Millie.

But she is a beautiful young lady, both inside and out, who will be a lovely bride and a loving wife.  She is entitled to her own taste.

I remember well the week before my own wedding 44 years ago,  shopping with my mother.  Using wedding gift money, I purchased a set of very 1968-stylish, bright blue floral sheets.  My mother announced that she could not possibly sleep on anything as outrageous as that bedding.  But I loved them.

Now, I like pink and blue and all pastels and the classic look of heirloom.  But that is not the preference of everyone and I am guessing that it is not Jordan’s style.    So I decided it was time to make an effort to get comfortable with a more contemporary expression of heirloom sewing.  And children’s clothing.  And the way some people respond to “Thank you,” with “No problem,”  instead of “You are welcome.”   But I digress.




The pillowcases are made of pima cotton and embroidered with letters included in Martha Pullen’s 2002 Internet Embroidery Club alphabet.  The Madeira applique’ hem is pinstitched with black 80 t. Madeira Cotona thread.

Tracking the curve of the scallops is so much easier with a knee lift.  My first TOL machine was a Bernina 930, about a hundred years ago.  The knee lift was one of its best features.

When I moved on to Brother machines, I was thrilled when their Pacesetter 8500 (circa 1998) had a knee lift, as did every subsequent top of the line.  If you have this feature on your machine, I encourage you to become well acquainted with it.  You will wonder how you ever managed without one.

Usually, I do a much better job of pivoting at the point of scallops, but this wasn’t a usual day.  So I’m thinking about embroidering a single dot at the point, echoing the dots in the G monogram.  Do you think that would be an improvement or a distraction?

I hope these pillowcases and the monogrammed towels in the gift package will please Jordan.  And I hope that with time I will find it easier to  sew more contemporary gift items, because I surely won’t be stitching them for myself.

What do you think?  Have you done any contemporary heirloom projects?  Do you enjoy being more modern, like Millie?  I’d really, really like to hear about it.

P.S.  As soon as I finish this wedding gift package and a few baby gifts, I will begin posting the tutorials for the AG doll spa wrap, machine made entredeux, and drafting and constructing bishops and bonnets for dolls.  Please check back.

13 responses to “Contemporary Heirloom?

  1. I may not be a modern Millie, but I do like the contrast thread for the hemstitch. I’d say not to bother with the dots; the pillowcases look lovely as they are. I agree with you about the knee lift; I’ve observed how useful they are. In fact, the lack of a knee lift is really the main reason that I’d like to upgrade my machine someday.

  2. Love the pillowcase & embroidery as it is. I love my knee lift on my Babylock machines. I have an embroidery/sewing and then a TOL sew only machine. They sew like so well that I hope that they last me my entire life! Of course, they are first cousins to the Brother machines.

  3. Shirley, AZ

    Beautiful job, Janice. I wouldn’t bother with the dots…..I think (like you suggested) that they would be a distraction. Those who are familiar with this kind of sewing will wonder what you’re covering up and those who are not as familiar with the kinds of skills that this requires…..won’t care! They will just love it for what it is…….a wonderful expression of your love.

  4. The pillowcases are lovely. Leave them as they are. As for the knee lift, I could not sew without one!

  5. No dots….love it the say it is. These 2 colors are very classy together. As for knee lifts….the machine I learned to sew on had a knee control for sewing instead of a foot control……so one year when I was at BabyLock Tech, they insisted I put the knee lift on the machine. Oh my, when my knee felt it there, it took over. My foot was on the foot control and my knee was on the knee lift….soon the sewing foot was hopping up and down at will! What a mess! After explaining, they had me take it off for the rest of the class! It has never been back on my machine!

  6. I love heirloom sewing with a contemporary twist so your pillowcases are right up my alley (just in case Jordan doesn’t want them 🙂 ). These are really beautiful. I have all the IEC from 2005 on and have been thinking of going back in time and getting the others; I love this alphabet especially.

  7. The 2002 MP Interneet Embroidery Club had two alphabets, both of which were used on this monogram. They go so well together. It’s so nice that you can order back years at any time and get just what you need when you need it. Thanks for liking the pillowcases. If Jordan says “return to sender” I’ll be in touch 😉

  8. I love your pillowcases, I also love the look of heirloom sewing I’ve never had any lessons in it, but have learned a little on my own and hope to able to sewing these as I would would love to do the scllop edge you have done. please give some detail or helpful hints as how you keep a nice curve.

  9. Jeanne, the next tutorial I do will be about shaped Madeira applique’ and I will include the details on how I get smooth curves. Thanks for asking.

  10. Nancy Gillespie

    Hello Janice,
    I stumbled across your site when looking for the heirloom sewing stitches of my Brother Ult 2003D. I love your site, your sewing, and YOU!
    I am interested in learning how to do the scallop that is seen not only in this pillowcase, but also in some of the dresses that you make. Can you make and sell me a scallop pattern? I am a new owner of and am going to be making my own tablecloths and want to add the scallop to them. Also want to add it to some window valances.

  11. Nancy, it makes me happy to know that you enjoy this blog. I’m also happy to know that you have a Brother ULT 2003D, a machine I love and have set up in my sewing room. That is a fabulous machine! I upgraded to Brother’s Duetta and then their Quattro and am crazy about both those machine. But I couldn’t part with my ULT 2003D.
    But on to your question about what you called the scallop pattern on the contemporary heirloom pillowcase. This technique is called Madeira applique’ and it has a multitude of uses. The Reader’s Digest version of the instructions are included in my blog post Babylock Christening Gown, which is a project I taught at Martha Pullen’s school. You’ll have to scroll down through the instructions for other techniques, but just keep looking. Then, if you have any questions at all, e-mail me at This technique is not difficult but you will need a little practice before you take on a project. You will need water solouble thread, Dixon washout marker (like a pencil, not the blue marking pens) and some scraps of 100% cotton or linen. (continued)

  12. Nancy, then you will want to check out the pinstitch, #304, on your ULT. Check out my pinstitch tutorial here. Your Charm Cottage web site is indeed charming! Let me know if I can help you in any way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.