This Magazine Changed My Life

In December of 1988, I saw this issue of Sew Beautiful on the magazine rack at a grocery store.  I picked it up, looked through it, and felt prickles go up and down my neck.  I knew how to sew very well, but I had grown up on a Missouri farm, and had never before seen such lacy confections!  I was immediately hooked.  I knew I would try my hand at this new-to-me type of sewing.


In that time before online shopping, I was lucky to find a few kinds of heirloom laces and some Imperial batiste at a machine dealership about 50 miles from my home.  I read and re-read the magazine, and also Mildred Turner’s book, which I got at that same store.


Okay, so heirloom sewing isn’t hard, it just requires certain materials and techniques, and attention to detail.  I’m really good at that “attention to detail” part, so with the book and magazine and some batiste and lace, I was off and running!

This is the first heirloom dress I made.  I don’t know what the basic pattern was, probably a McCall’s/Simplicity/Butterick that I adapted.  The sleeves and collar were from Mimi’s book.


The dress is pale pink Imperial batiste and narrow (really too narrow for the templates, but it’s what I could find) white French Val insertion and edging.  There are teardrop insertion shapes on the collar, and a double row of scallops on the sleeves.  I used serger thread, which was the finest thread I could get.

Annie wore the dress for Easter 1989.  And don’t you love David’s expression?!

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Unfortunately, I no longer have that dress.  It was probably loaned to a friend, and never made it back home.  But I do have the second heirloom dress I made!  This one was made from real Nelona Swiss batiste and Swiss embroideries.  The basic pattern was one from one of those early Sew Beautiful magazines.


Surprisingly, the Swiss insertion and edging were purchased a couple of years before this, before I discovered Sew Beautiful.  I got them at Eunice Farmer’s store in St. Louis, because I thought then, and still do, that they were some of the most beautiful trims I had ever seen.



I remember that when I called Martha Pullen Co. to order the precious Nelona, Kathy McMakin answered the phone and took my order!

Well, that magazine was the start of an amazing journey for me!  Soon, I was sewing and writing and teaching for Martha Pullen Co.  I am so grateful for the opportunities this gave me!  At the time, I had two lovely children, but was in a dismal marriage.  The ability to stretch my creativity, do things I had never imagined myself doing, and create so many beautiful things gave me a self-confidence that eventually helped me to get out of that dismal marriage and then later marry a wonderful, supportive man.

Fast forward 26 years… I have authored two books, had my work featured in countless books and magazines, won top prizes at major quilt shows, taped a Craftsy class, and have four quilts in the National Quilt Museum.  Yes, I’ve endured my share of heartbreak and tragedy – no one is spared that.  But what a ride for a farm girl with a chemistry degree!  Just last week I went to Albuquerque, NM, because my quilt “Snow Flowers” won the “Best Home Machine Quilted” award (and $3500!) at the AQS show there.



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Just like those white dresses, white quilts are difficult to photograph!  But you can clearly see the heirloom influence – lace insertions and edgings on a quilt!

I wonder what will be on the journey next?


A Very Versatile Machine Embroidery Design #2

Corner designs are very common machine embroidery designs.  This one is from Zundt, of course.  It looks pretty simple, and rather uninspiring, right?


Here it is, stitched in the corners, for a little donation quilt I made for The National Quilt Museum.


The fabric is silk/cotton Radiance, the large tulip is also a Zundt design, and the circle is shaped cotton lace insertion.

But before I made this quilt, I made this one, TulipFire:



Do you see the red embroidered on-point squares?  Those are made from this embroidery design, stitched four times in each block.

I simply combined them on-screen on my machine, and stitched the entire block at one time.  This has very dense satin stitch embroidery, outlined with gold metallic thread.


I was thrilled (and very surprised!) when this quilt won the Bernina award for Best Machine Workmanship at the 2013 AQS show in Paducah!

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(And, yes, I made my dress, it’s an out-of-print Butterick pattern in a stable knit.)

Now, back to that embroidery design… If you skip the first color in the stitching (the satin stitching) and just stitch the second color (the metallic outline), you get an entirely different look from the same design, very light and airy.  This is Argentum, a 17″ square miniature.


Here’s a closer look at the subtle embroidery

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So, I stitched this silver outline embroidery on silver Radiance, then hand-appliqued these teeny, tiny (about 1/8″ wide) bias tubes, then quilted the entire thing with Kimono silk 100 thread.

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This little baby won first place in Miniatures at the 2014 Houston IQA show, and has been juried into 2015 Paducah.

As you can see, these are very different looks from the same embroidery design!  Think about different ways you can use your designs.

A Coat to Brighten a Cold Winter Day

Brrrr, it’s cold out today!  So I thought I’d show you the coat (well, one of three coats!) I made last winter.


It all started when I saw this gorgeous yellow wool/angora doublecloth at EmmaOneSock.  This exact color is no longer available, but there are still several colors of the same cloth on the site.  Doublecloth is actually two layers of fabric that are woven, or sewn, together with connecting threads.  The layers can be carefully separated, which allows for some unusual construction techniques.  I’d never worked with this type of fabric before.  The entire coat is one layer of fabric – no facings, no hems!  First of all, look at this fabric and try to imagine how heavenly it feels!  It was a joy to work with!

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For the seams, I separated the layers of the fabric for twice the width of the seam allowance, machine stitched the outer layers together, then turned under and hand stitched the inner layers.  I also ended up topstitching from the right side along both sides of the seams.  This shows the inside of a seam.


I used Butterick 5685, with some changes.  This is the right collar, and you can see how supple it is.  The edges of the collar, the front opening, and the hems were finished by separating the fabric layers as for the seams, turning in both edges, then stitching the folded edges together by hand.  Time-intensive, but I got to fondle the fabric all that time! 🙂


Because I didn’t want any stitched buttonholes, and I wasn’t able to make a bound buttonhole that I liked, I added a seam across the left bodice at the level of the top button.  Then, I was able to make inseam buttonholes.  I added strips of silk organza on both sides of the openings after I had separated the fabric layers, to prevent the buttonholes from stretching.

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I wanted to line the sleeves and back bodice, both to add a little warmth, to hide some soft shoulder pads, and to make it easier to put on and take off.  I had a pale yellow China silk in my stash, but it wasn’t heavy enough to wear well, so I quilted the silk to some muslin, then cut out the lining pieces.  The lining was hand-stitched to the inside of the coat.


I covered some large snaps with the silk to secure the front underlap.

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To really make the coat shine, I appliqued flowers on the large left front lapel!  I separated the fabric layers of a block of fabric, so the applique pieces are just one layer of the doublecloth.  The edges were turned under, and appliqued to the collar with fine silk thread.  The flower centers were padded with just a bit of poly stuffing.

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If you’re familiar with my quilting, you may notice a similarity between these flowers and those I use in much of my quilting.  I guess I just can’t get away from these five-petalled flowers!