A Hummingbird Pillowcase with embroidery halfway done. This is a handmade dark blue pillowcase that is sewn from sheets purchased when they are on sale. I first draw out an outline to follow for embroidering the hummingbird as it flies over some small flowers which I decide to make with yellow satin stitches with an orange outline. The leaves and stems are light green. After getting this portion done, I feel like it is not enough.
So, I use my iron-away pens to draw another set of pink flowers for the hummingbird to be going after. Here it is completed with the hummingbird and flowers on bothe sides. I love drawing these little guys and then stitching them into life with my embroidery thread in the evenings. This one is being given to a very special lady for her birthday.
I am in the process of embroidery on this blue pillowcase with another version of my favorite theme. Hummingbirds and flowers! Right now, I think this pillowcase is about half complete. It just feels incomplete needing needs a little bit more. I will be drawing in some more foliage on the right-hand side and finishing it up in the next couple of weeks.
I just finished the embroidery on two flower pillowcases this week. They are flowers done in the satin stitch along with french knots and regular border lines. This one is of four roses in different colors with a smattering of leaves and line doo-dads.
This next is another embroidery of two types of flowers in lavenders and pinks on a dark blue pillowcase. I am not sure which type of flowers they actually are. You know they are just out of my head, so in the fiction category of the flower kingdom. I like the way that the flowers show up with such a dark background. So, this color scheme is probably going to be something I will try again.
Doing embroidery by hand is painting with thread for me. Typically, where I spend hours each evening hand stitching “one-of-a-kind” family tablecloth treasures. Embroidery used to be a common pass-time, but it is becoming less and less common. I enjoy, hand stitching both patterns made by others and designs that I have drawn myself. Creating cloth treasures to celebrate special occasions with.
Will there be any family heirloom linens to pass down in the future?
This tablecloth started out as a garage sale score for me. It was part of a tablecloth painting kit, hidden, in a stack of sewing materials. I noticed a stamped pattern on it. Not being sure of what I was seeing, I unfolded it. Discovering, a stamped design with baskets and cosmos blossoms on every corner along with random flowers strewn across the center.
A perfect full-size tablecloth with edges finish stitched, and no stains. Only $2. How could I pass it up? I couldn’t wait to get it home and start stitching.
Cosmos is a wonderfully colorful wildflower allowing for a wide assortment of thread colors. I chose “satin stitch” to make the cosmos petals with. Because I wanted to have a vibrantly bright tablecloth in the end. Here it is drying on the clothesline at about 3/4 complete.
This tablecloth took a year to finish embroidering as I sat in the evenings with the family.
This tablecloth was used in my artist booth for the Inland Empire Gardeners, “Spokane in Bloom Garden Tour” on June 15, 2019. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and got a lot of compliments about this tablecloth, many even asked if it was for sale.
How much do you think it should sell for if I were to sell it?
Sadly, sewing is a lost art in our society. Picture the pioneer that sat on a rocker in front of their fireplaces all winter hand sewing clothes and quilts in dim light. Honestly, we have it real easy with our sewing machines in comparison. People have a unfounded terror of attempting to do the “impossible” task of constructing a garment. Fears are easily proven wrong as a result of, discovering the steps to sew any item are very precisely laid-out in the patterns. If you can read and follow directions, you can sew anything. You will find that the process gets easier and faster due to repetition, and each additional item made from a pattern gets easier still.
Sewing is a cumulative skill worth pursuing. Learning to sew teaches you how to use your precise hand movement skills constructively, to mind to plan which step first, and your perseverance strengths to complete a project. Above all, making custom pieces that are not only unique, and well-fitted give a person a special sort of self-satisfaction when complete.
Passing Down the Sewing Skills
I like to sew, which I learned from my Mother. Her name was Mary Schultheis and she was so talented in many ways as a pianist, and a seamstress who spent many hours sewing our family clothes and everything else as I was growing up.
An amazing thing she sewed for me were all the fancy “holo ku’s” or costumes I used to dance hula solos in shows downtown Waikiki. These outfits were very complicated fitted patterns which were designed to imitate the 1800’s missionary dress styles. Probably a real nightmare for my Mom. Long dresses with many small buttons/clasps, lace and trains dragging on the floor. How difficult it must have been, to put 3-4 of those outfits together every year. It would be similar to making multiple prom dresses on a yearly basis. I really should of thanked her much, much, more for this! Hindsight. The items that I make now, will never even compare to her skill level on the sewing machine. My sewing projects are happily made and given away, sold, or donated to church fundraisers the majority of the time.
I record the, “Sewing With Nancy” programs on the Public Television Station to view when I have time. She lays out really neat ways to go about sewing a large variety of items.
Mom, besides being a supreme seamstress, she did fine crochet crafts using thin cotton thread and her speedy little hooks. It was amazing to watch her hands click her needles together as she was knitting. It was just as amazing to see her going rapidly in and out of her next tablecloth, she had very fast hands with her hooks and needles. Her projects included things like doilies, tablecloths, Christmas tree skirts, blouses.
Three generations of women sat together visiting while they embroidering along with other crafts in my parents house. Our family sews, embroiders and crochets together passing down the skills we learned from our elders. We sat around the living room or on Grandma’s porch in the afternoons and evenings, joking and chatting while we stitched together (or we were snapping green beans from the garden). Our household produced beautiful pieces with Scottish tatting, eyelet, embroidery, and crochet pieces.
Great Grandma Tatting
My Great-Grandmother did Scottish tatting and embroidery on elegant dish towels, quilts, doilies, pillowcases and dresses.
Her daughter did embroidery in colored flosses making days-of-the-week dish towels, flowers, herbs, quilts, table cloths and napkins.
My Grandma, “Opal” taught me how to do embroidery stitches on small things like pillowcases and napkins. After I learned how to do all the basic embroidery stitches sufficiently, I graduated from her 101 course and slipped into the real world of embroidery from there.
First Real Project
When I was in high school, Grandma gave me my first real embroidery project as my Christmas present. It was a full tablecloth kit made by Bucilla who’s name has changed to plaid on now. This tablecloth kit had the thread, cloth, needles, and hoop in it with instructions similar to a paint-by-number set. Put this color floss here, using this stitch. This first tablecloth was a daisy and rose pattern with vines and leaves taking me an entire year to finish. Seems like maybe, there were a million times where I needed to change the thread colors. I threaded a different color into my needle so many times, that it truly became second nature. Many times I thought that maybe it would be impossible to finish. But each evening I stitched on it some more and finally, it was done. It would not surprise me, to find out that my family had placed bets on weather I would finish it or not. Probably the most significant result has been the creation of a lifelong habit that I dearly love.
Grandma was also responsible for many of my best recipes. Her name was Opal (Canniff) Kilpatrick. Being half Scottish and half Indian she had beautiful white hair just like her Mom. Here is a picture of her pausing for a photo for me in the Lihue, Kauai HI airport before we walked over to the gate for her to climb up the stairs to catch her flight.
She had come to visit me and my kids before moving away to the mainland to live with her sister in Oklahoma. I snapped this photograph with one of those old Kodak 110 film cameras, little did I know, this would be the last time I’d see her in-person before she passed away. This picture is kept in my wallet and I still miss her. Grandma’s voice is heard whenever I spread my daisy tablecloth on the dining room table on a special occasion.
Since early childhood, I have been stitching on heirloom tablecloths, blankets and pillowcases. Embroidery feels like coloring with a thread in rhythm on cloth, in an otherwise mundane surrounding.
Winding-down we watch TV and I do embroidery, as a welcome distraction. When I hold something in my hands and stitch, I don’t have to watch commercials or be bored. I’d probably go crazy if I had to watch every minute of TV, but I am thankful that this rhythm in and out, stitching bright colors onto cloth, is probably responsible for maintaining my sanity.
Many times it is quite economical to buy needlework or sewing supplies in a large quantities at thrift stores, and estate or garage sales. An easy first project is a couple pillowcases, that you apply an iron-on stamp pattern for traditional embroidery. Most sewing outlets, hobby outlets, and Walmart carry them. You can locate learning or first kits that include everything you need in them too. The website of the firm based in Georgia that took over the Bucilla brand is here;
Mentioned earlier, I continue to do anywhere from 3-6 pillowcases and 1-3 table cloths each year depending on difficulty of my designs. Each is a one-of-a-kind design utilizing a hand made or drawn theme. It is not necessary for me to purchase a stamp pattern to work from anymore since I am able to draw what I want myself. I have quite a stock of every color of floss in my sewing kit sitting by the recliner, that I restock as needed. Typical themes of my work include birds and bees, butterflies, flowers, leaves, vines and animals, hummingbirds or cherry vines with baskets, or daisies. The list goes on and on.
Let me know if you’d like to purchase any of the work I share here, or if you’d like a special order made, as I probably could be persuaded to part with heirlooms if the price is right.
I took my embroidered cherry basket tablecloth to the Mennonite Country Auction & Relief Sale/Auction, where it sold for a surprising amount, even though it was the only embroidery piece entered in the sale displays that year. My tablecloth did ultimately succeed in attracting attention and sell for a good price and I would assume that more embroidery items are now available there. I wanted to contribute a meaningful amount to the church with my project. It selling as it did, gave me a real boost as an embroidery artist.
I chose this charity in honor of my Mother-In-Law who used to make fabulous quilts for them every year. She and her family graciously welcomed me into the Spring Valley Mennonite Church in Spring Valley WA. I am forever grateful. When Peter and I got married fortunately, Mom bought me a Mennonite Cook Book from this auction event. Yummy!
Dorothy and I felt comfortable sitting close and visiting, while we worked on our hand-made projects. I doing my embroidery and Dorothy her great baby quilts along with all the school bags and everything else as she sewed through her life.
This event is worth going to!
If you have not been to the Mennonite Country Auction & Relief Sale/Auction, this is something that you will want to do. Put it on your list of must-do’s to see
absolute quilting excellence.
This sale is setup to raise money for missions of the church and is held in the Fall in Ritzville (between Spokane and Seattle). The Mennonite Country Auction & Relief Sale/Auction is an all day gathering for the whole family with breakfast, tents filled with exquisite quilts, comforters, afghans, and handmade crafts and furniture to walk through and admire. Apple cider, apple butter, along with ice cream and some of the best cheeses (that sell out fast). The auction of the beautiful hand work is in the afternoon and is a lot of fun. Check out their website, The next auction is October 6th, 2018.
It is with a special anticipation that you begin this kind of needlework journey. Calmly embroidering, with great colors and a wide variety of possible stitches as a beautiful design becomes even more classic with each strand of floss, until an heirloom keepsake is made.
At this point, I am happily working on my cherry embroidery every night. The average time it takes me to embroider a new tablecloth project is between 3-9 months, depending on the level of difficulty in the design.
It also seems to take a lot longer when there are a large volume of colors in the design. You know, completing all of one color for a reasonable space, then securing the knots, snip and threading needles with the new colors every few minutes. More colors are more time consuming.
Before you know it, here is a beautiful tablecloth complete. I do a little Irish jig dance celebrating! Standing up and dancing around the living room singing, “It is done, yeah, it is done!”, after the last stitch is tied-off.
Then the new tablecloth is carefully washed, ironed (every single inch) and carefully photographed on the dining room table. I apologize that I did not think anyone was interested in the unfinished stages of embroidery during this project time period. Nowadays, I make it a point to photograph the stages of completion so others can see how it looks as you go along.
I hope that you are able to find forgotten treasures at your next garage sale expedition too. This was actually someone else’s dream tablecloth that I was able to complete. When she got this fine tablecloth stamped in this great cherry basket and cherry vine pattern I am sure that she had all kinds of ideas about how beautiful it would turn out. She probably had a great fondness for fresh cherries, herself. I hope that my embroidery has honored her wishes for this heirloom tablecloth.
Next in this needlework adventure, it was the colors. I decided to make the cherries a mixture of rainier pinks and bings in dark maroon and deep reds. The twisting vines and stems would be with a dark stem and lighter leaves around the border and in the interior vine design. There were four baskets, one on each corner, that I thought would look good in brown earth tones.
Getting out my box of embroidery floss I began choosing the pinks and cherry reds color along with foliage greens. For the baskets I chose browns, but after finishing the first one I chose to change the color of the baskets for each corner just for some variety in the piece.