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?!
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.
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?