Heirloom Dreams

I followed quilting for years before I actually tried it. I was a subscriber to Quilters Newsletter Magazine for decades, and enjoyed the artistry of Caryl Fallert and the detailed precision of Diane Gaudynski. In about 2000, I visited the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY for the first time, and was blown away! Wow! Yet for a number of years after that, I said that I couldn’t start quilting in earnest because I wouldn’t have time to do anything else. Oh, I had done several special quilts (see Our Whole Life, My Texas Star, and David’s 21st Birthday Quilt, plus a few others) so I wasn’t starting from scratch. Finally, though, the idea of making a quilt for competition grew irresistible to me. And Heirloom Dreams was born!


56” x 55” 2004

I had seen those quilts in the museum, and later, had attended the AQS show in Paducah, so I knew what kind of quality was required to be competitive. Because I had spent many years working for Martha Pullen Co., heirloom techniques were in my blood, and I also knew this was something different that had not been brought into the world of quilts in a big way. So I got out my batiste and lace and my thinking cap! 🙂

I wanted a quilt that would have the overall look of delicate lace. It is actually four layers – a backing, batting, and two top layers of fabric. The top is white Swiss batiste, embellished with shaped French Val lace, shaped lace/rickrack bridging, shaped puffing, shaped bias linen strips, pinstitching, entredeux stitching, and machine embroidery from an old Husqvarna Viking embroidery card. The outer edge is a shaped linen applique. This was layered over light blue Swiss batiste to create the quilt top.

Making a great top is only half (or even less!) of making a good quilt. The quilting is what brings it to life, what transforms it from a flat, two-dimensional piece of fabric into a sculpted, three-dimensional work. And quilting was the challenge (and still continues to be.) I free-motion quilted around every bit of embellishment with monofilament thread – the lace, the applique, the embroidery. This is still the first step of quilting for every quilt I make. I created trapunto floral designs in opposite corners around the center medallion that repeat the machine embroidery shapes. The 3/8″ crosshatch was done with the feed dogs up… lots of tie-offs, and lots of turning! Shell-stitched piping outlines the scalloped bound edges.





So, my quilt was finished and photographed. Instead of starting with a small, local show, what did I do? I entered it in the World of Beauty contest at the Houston International Quilt Festival 2004! I was delighted when it won first place in the Computer-Aided Machine Embroidery category, was juried into American Quilter’s Society judged show in 2005, and was featured in Jenny Haskins Creative Expressions magazine, Issue 7.

It’s hard to believe that this was over 16 years ago! I still like many of the same things. I often use soft colors, and lean toward analogous color schemes. I still love fine details, and I regularly use medallion settings. Almost every quilt I make includes lace, either the fine cotton kind, or machine-embroidered free-standing lace that I make. I like symmetry. Intricate edges are interesting. And, I’ve learned a lot about quilting since then. Here are some of the things I’ve learned…

  • Quilts have to be visually appealing from a distance as well as close up. With heirloom garments, almost everything is about the tiny details. But quilts need to pack a “wow” from across the room as well as from a foot away.
  • The difference between expensive Swiss batiste and much less expensive cotton batiste is significant in a Christening gown; it makes much less difference in a quilt. Now, I’m not saying you should not use quality fabrics, but in this particular comparison, Swiss batiste is not worth the cost.
  • Those tiny stitches we love in heirloom sewing – pinstitch and entredeux – just don’t show up in the finished quilt. The little “holes” get lost in the texture. If you’re going to add lace to a quilt, a zigzag is just fine, and takes far less time.
  • As important as I knew quilting was, it’s even more important than I thought! It doesn’t have to be done on a longarm. All of my quilts were quilted on sit-down machines. This one was done on a regular domestic. The only way to be good at it is to do a lot of it!

Go ahead and try your hand at something you’ve wanted to do for a long time. Who knows where it might take you!?


Updating an Heirloom Dress

I made this dress for a 2002 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.


It was made of pale pink handkerchief linen, Swiss cotton organdy, and yards and yards of French lace.


The technique for the article was the organdy “windows,” embellished in this dress with machine embroidery in the palest of colors. (The embroidery designs were from Pfaff embroidery cards which I am almost sure are no longer available.)


I wanted to demonstrate this technique in Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques, my most recent Craftsy class. If you’d like to see in detail how I made these transparent reverse applique windows, and get 50% off my class, click on the class icon on the right side of my blog home page.

I like to have lots of samples, and this dress was still in my sample closet. The problem was that the dress was pretty dated by now. It was probably a girl’s size 12, with a dropped “V” waist, giant puffy sleeves, and a huge collar. Still pretty, but very out of date. So I saved the time-intensive parts and re-made it!


I cut off the skirt and underskirt and took apart the bodice. I used the bodice and sleeves for fabric to cut the sleeveless bodice from my “Baby’s Breath” pattern in a size 4. Extra bits of fabric were used to cover the piping at the waistline seam and for the neck binding, and I removed some of the lace from the original collar for the neckline. You can’t see it, but I used the folded back facings with buttons and buttonholes from the original for the back button opening. I even salvaged the original’s back button tab, stitching it into the back darts of the new version!


Because the original skirt was very wide, made from 56″ wide fabric, it was too bulky to gather into the new, smaller waistline. So I cut out a section of the skirt and underskirt, going right through two of the little diamond-shaped windows, then sewing a new seam and carefully matching the embroidery motifs. I placed this at the center back. This moved the original side seams away from the bodice side seams and into the back, but the skirt is still so full, no one will ever notice or care. I shortened the skirt and batiste underskirt, made a new placket in the skirt at the top of the center back seam, and lined the bodice with batiste. That batiste lining is the only thing not from the original!

Here are a few more photos of the new version.



Stay tuned, I’ll post later about some of my other heirloom re-makes!


To Quilt or Not To Quilt?

I don’t travel and teach much these days. I live about two-and-a-half hours from a medium-sized airport, so besides the normal hassles of air travel, I have the added long commute before and after a trip. Besides, I’m basically a hermit, most happy when I am at home with my hubby and my cats and my fabrics! But when I was asked to teach for a wonderful group of stitchers in Florida, I couldn’t say no. You see, back when I coordinated Project First Day for the school kids of Joplin after the devastating tornado five years ago, this group sent not just a few garments, but hundreds! They have ongoing charity sewing projects. They’re good people. So, I’m going to Florida soon!

One of the projects I’m going to teach is this “To Quilt or Not To Quilt” table topper. Lots of heirloom techniques! It’s pretty without quilting.


But I wanted to demonstrate how quilting can add an extra dimension to a project like this! So here is the same project (well, some of the laces are different, and the crazy patch center block is different) layered over taupe silk dupioni and quilted!

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I know quilting is not for everyone, and it takes a lot of practice to be able to do free-motion quilting smoothly (I quilt on a sit-down machine, not a longarm; in other words, I move the fabric, not the machine,) but it really is pretty! 🙂

Here are the techniques included, in both the unquilted and quilted versions:

Puffing with entredeux and lace insertionIMG_5804_2IMG_5815_2

Lace and Rickrack Bridging…(Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of the full unquilted block. But this lets you see the technique close up.)IMG_5806_2IMG_5819_2

Bias Linen AppliqueIMG_5803_2IMG_5814_2

Transparent Reverse AppliqueIMG_5802_2IMG_5821_2

Machine FaggotingIMG_5801_2IMG_5816_2

Lace Crazy Patch…IMG_5800_2IMG_5823_2

Many of these techniques are covered in detail in my class “Heirloom Sewing: More Classic Techniques,” which you can get for just just $24.99 here.

I spent days preparing the class kitsclass kit

In this nice little plastic bag are 11 pieces of pre-cut fabric, 3 pieces of pre-cut water-soluble stabilizer, an embroidered motif (which I made), 4 yds. of bias linen strips which I cut, rickrack, entredeux, and 3 kinds of lace (over 12 yds. total!)

I’m ready to head south!



Don’t Forget!

Time is quickly running out to enter for a chance to win my newest Craftsy class…

Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques!

You have to enter before the class goes live (and we’re talking only hours until that happens!)

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You’ll learn sooo many great techniques! If you’ve taken Craftsy classes, you know the advantages. But if you haven’t, here are some things to consider…

  1. Craftsy is the fastest growing creative community on the web! Learn, make, share and have fun as you join more than 8 million members in over 200 countries.
  2. Pursue your creative passions in online-video lessons led by the best instructors in the world.
  3. Craftsy lets you learn at your own pace, with online-video classes you can watch anytime, anywhere, forever.
  4. Learning is more fun with the family! Bring friends and loved ones together and have a blast learning new skills.
  5. Craftsy classes let you take virtual notes, so you can write things down as you go and keep all of your learning in one convenient place.
  6. You won’t miss a single, exciting detail of your class thanks to crystal-clear HD video, stunning close-ups and convenient closed captioning.
  7. Craftsy gives you the support to succeed. Use the Craftsy platform to ask questions and get answers from your classmates and instructors.
  8. Craftsy is a creative community where members inspire one another by sharing projects and encouragement.

Maybe you will be the one to win! Click here to enter, and stay tuned!

It’s Almost Time!

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Some of you may have guessed that I recently filmed a new Craftsy class! Heirloom Sewing More Classic Techniques will be launched soon. Do you want a chance to win a free class? Click here to be entered into a drawing to win – Craftsy will draw a random entry, and I’ll let the lucky winner know the day the class goes live.

Look at some of the things I teach in the class…

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Straight and Curved Puffing2524 resized.jpg2261 resized.jpg2485 resized.jpg

Tiny Single and Double Piping2269 resized.jpg2208 resized.jpg2415 resized.jpg

…and lots more!

Stay tuned for more photos and info. Be sure to follow my blog so you don’t miss any updates. And remember that with a Crafsty online class, you can take it as many times as you want, whenever you want, and you can ask me and other students questions and post photos of your work! Super-sharp HD quality video and audio make it easy to see exactly what I am doing each step of the way.

Dont’ forget to sign up for that free class!

Sweet Pea

My husband hates sweet peas. These pretty little flowers smell heavenly, but the vines are aggressive. My dad, a farmer, said that a weed was just a plant that wasn’t in the right place. Well, sweet peas in iris beds are in the wrong place! Several years ago, Mark dug up an entire iris bed to get at all the sweet pea roots, then re-planted the irises. Those sweet peas have not shown their pretty little faces in that bed again!

When it comes to my Sweet Pea pattern, however, it’s a different story!

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The pattern got its name because of the twisty spiral skirt, which is like the twisty spiral sweet pea vines.

The skirt gores can be made in the same or contrasting fabrics.

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Here’s another version that was in a Sew Beautiful pictorial in 2011, I think.

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It’s been one of my best-selling patterns (although people tell me it tends to run long, and if you need to shorten it, that must be done at the waist before stitching the skirt to the bodice.)

Not too long ago, S.G. sent me a photo of a dress she made from this pattern. “I used Swiss Lawn AKA Fairy Fabric. I used shaped lace between the gores because the fabric was too delicate for the serger.  I created the fabric for the bodice by embroidering a lace fill in white rayon all over the fabric, then adding white beads on every other intersection.  I cut my sleeve in a circle flounce to echo the flounces on the skirt. The little girl, who turns 4 next month loved wearing it, it twirls perfectly.”

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So when I was making up samples for my Craftsy class, Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques, I picked this pattern for the lesson on tucks, to show multiple ways to use tucks to embellish a bodice.

First, I showed how to stitch plain folded tucks on a block of fabric, then cut out your pattern piece from the tucked fabric. (I’m sorry these photos are sideways – for whatever reason, my photo editor would not save the rotated version today, and I just don’t have time to fight it!)


Next, I showed double needle pintucks, and how they could be combined with a bit of lace.

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Here are pintucks stitched close together in trios, with spaces in between just wide enough for the presser foot, where I stitched decorative stitches.

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Cross-hatched pintucks create a yoke effect.

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And finally, the bodice I used for the finished dress – bias, cross-hatched pintucks, some embroidered Swiss insertion, and curved pintucks!

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Here’s the full dress – I used Imperial broadcloth, and a tiny little Swiss trim on the sleeves and neckline.


Here is a backlit photo of the bodice


And another photo of the pintuck detail


Tucks are versatile, and sweet peas can be sweet! 🙂

Cathedral Lace Windows

When I was preparing for my Craftsy Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques (get it for 50% off here!) class taping, I wanted an adult garment showcasing the Cathedral Lace Windows technique. The Amber Woven Blouse pattern from Style Arc seemed too perfect to pass up!


The narrow front band looked like it would be a wonderful place to place a strip of this embellishment, and have a top that would be sophisticated and not at all frilly.

I chose ivory, black, and gold silk/cotton Radiance from my stash. (Yes, I know, I have a serious case of Radiance hoarding!) A strip of black insertion lace, some tiny cord to cover for piping, a little lightweight fusible interfacing, and I was set to go.


Like the Fleur and Marley tops made as samples for the class, this one is a size 10 to fit the dress form, so it’s a bit too small for me. But I love the way it turned out! I think the top would fit me perfectly in a size or two larger.

The Cathedral Lace Window strip down the center front is the highlight of the top. 1

It was made from the instructions in the class. You can get the class for only $24.99 here, and until March 13, 2016, you can be entered to win $1000 to be donated to your favorite art or craft centered charity (think Quilts of Valor, or Threads of Love, or any other 501-c3.)

In this pattern, the center front strip and front neckline reverse facing are made as a unit, then applied to the blouse front. Be sure that when you’re stitching the center strip down, it is exactly in the center. Yes, I got mine on a little catty-wampus the first time and had to take it off and stitch it again.

I think  that if I make this again, in my size, I would do a couple of things differently. First, I would increase the biceps measurement of the sleeve a little, as I do for almost all Style Arc patterns. I would also lengthen the sleeve an inch or so, and I would finish the lower edge of the sleeve differently. The pattern allows for just 1/4 inch narrow hem. You can’t cut a deeper hem because of the curve of the lower edge, but I would either make a facing or bias binding to finish the edge. I think I would also shape the side seams a bit, or perhaps add a center back seam or back darts to shape the waistline just a little.

This is a nice pattern, and I can think of lots of ways to use color blocking and a little embellishment to make it unique!


Shark’s Teeth

Once upon a time, way back in 1990, Martha Pullen sent me a fragment of an antique petticoat and asked me to recreate the technique. Surprisingly, I had seen the technique several years before on an apron, and at that time I had examined it and figured out how it was done. So when I received that petticoat, I already knew how it was done! (Have I said before that I really enjoy the engineering part of sewing?!)

Well, I made one small pillow with this clipped-and-folded-and-stitched tuck technique, by hand, the way the original was done. And I realized that I had to find a way to do this by machine! So I did! I made garments with rows and rows and rows of these triangular tucks.

At the time, my children were very young. We lived near the original Bass Pro Shops, and sometimes, on rainy days, we would go to the store for fun. The kids could watch the fish in the huge aquarium and climb on the boats and in the tents. There were waterfalls and trees and even a stream running through the store. And there were taxidermied animals everywhere! One day, while I was in the midst of making those rows and rows and rows of white triangular tucks, we walked into Bass Pro, and there was…the Great White Shark, mouth open, with rows and rows and rows of white triangular teeth! And the name “Shark’s Teeth” was born!

This was my first article in Sew Beautiful, in the Summer 1991 issue.3a5a8a

I wanted more samples, so I made a dress for Annie and a shirt for David.


I was scheduled to teach for the first time at the Martha Pullen school in July 1991 . I was so nervous I couldn’t sleep and my stomach hurt. This magazine had come out just weeks before the school, and while the technique was too new to have been included in any of my classes, I did demos of this new technique at the Table Top Clinic evening event. I was swamped with some 350 students, plus many teachers and assistants and employees. I lost my voice that evening! Twenty-five years later, Shark’s Teeth remains popular, and I’m proud to have named it!

I’ve taught Shark’s Teeth so many times I could do it in my sleep! Now it’s included in my Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques Craftsy class. (Click here to take the class for just $24.99, a 50% discount!)resized 3a

Do you see the linen shirt-jacket on the dress form behind me? Well, I needed some updated samples, and more adult garments for class samples. This is my newest Shark’s Teeth garment.

I used the StyleArc Marley Woven Shirt pattern. This pattern is also available as a PDF on Etsy.


While I rarely wear boxy jackets myself, I knew this would be a good pattern to showcase some rows of Shark’s Teeth along the front opening.18

I used a rust-colored handkerchief linen that has been in my stash for a long time. I used a size 10 pattern, because that’s the size of the mannequin, but it’s too small for me, so bear that in mind when looking at the photos of me wearing it. I would need a size 12 or 14, and as with most StyleArc patterns, I would increase the biceps circumference. Otherwise, the shirt is great! Here it is worn open…


…and buttoned.034

You can see here that the dart points are too high – if I had been making this for myself, I would have lowered the darts, in addition to using the larger size.

Here’s the back – again, a shirt that’s too small for me. But it’s nice to see garments on a real person!50

One thing I really like about this pattern are the deep hems and slits at the side seams and at the cuffs.


The rest of the photos show details, but the color is waaaaay off – sorry! These are the slits and deep hems.


I used French seams for all the seams, so the inside is nicely finished.


Instead of hemming the fronts as indicated on the pattern, I made a facing the depth of the hem. If I had used a hem, the tucks, if folded under, would have been quite bulky. A facing eliminates that bulk. And I slip-stitched the front placket edges to the seamline of the innermost tuck.


The collar stand on this pattern was different than any I’ve done before, but it worked nicely.


All in all, a great pattern, and a time-tested technique!

StyleArc “Fleur Tunic”


My Craftsy class went live on Monday, and (yay!) it’s doing very well. I have already had several questions about the white tunic shown on the mannequin behind me in Lessons 2 and 3, about basic heirloom sewing techniques.  Well, here’s the “scoop” on that garment!


Here’s the top on me. I made this from StyleArc’s Fleur Tunic pattern. This is a size 10, so it’s a little small on me. It was made for the mannequin on the Craftsy set and fits her better 🙂


I wanted to make a ladies’ garment that was truly wearable. I really like that StyleArc patterns have a great size range – this one is available in sizes 4 – 30!


I wanted just a bit of lace, with no frilliness. The neckline insert in this pattern seemed like the perfect place for that. I stitched together lace and embroidered insertions to form pieces large enough for the front insert pattern piece. I did not line the insert, as directed in the pattern, because I wanted the look to be more delicate. I used a teeny, tiny Swiss trim for the center front edge, for stability, and I edged the insert with entredeux, instead of using a regular seam.

The body of the tunic is made from Spechler-Vogel Imperial batiste – it’s inexpensive and easy-care.


I used French seams for the construction, which is pretty minimal – shoulder seams, shirt-type sleeve seams, and side seams.


The roll-up sleeves are secured with a buttoned tab. I interfaced the tab with a lightweight interfacing, so the lightweight batiste would hold up to a buttonhole. I did find that the marking on the pattern for the placement of the tab was a little too high for my taste, so I lowered that mark about 3 inches.

This is a roomy pattern. As I said, I made a 10 for the mannequin. My measurements are between a 12 and a 14. I  would use a 12 and not a 14 for myself, and I think I would lengthen it a bit – but then, I’m pretty tall. I think it works well with jeans, and I think it would make a great swim suit cover-up if lengthened, although I wasn’t thinking much about swimming when we took the pics today, as it was barely above freezing!

If you want to learn about the simple techniques I used to create the lace insert, and save 50% off the regular price, check out my class, “Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques“!

“Heirloom Sewing Essential Techniques” is Live!

Today is the day! My newest Craftsy class is now live!titleCard

To celebrate, I’m offering 50% off the cost of the class. That’s not a bad price for a class you can watch as often as you want, for as long as you want. You can interact with me and with other students, and you can show off your projects to the Craftsy community and be inspired by other students’ work. (And, I’m so pleased – the photography and production of this class, which I just got to watch for the first time yesterday, is superb!)

You can see a short introductory video here.


I’ve been looking forward sooo much to the launch of this class! It has something for everyone, I think.


…and lots more! I had so much fun doing this class.


Have a great day, and have fun sewing (heirloom sewing, I hope!)