Treasure Hunt for Embroidery Supplies

One of the things I am always on the look-out for are embroidery or sewing supplies. This project is the result of one of those garage sale and estate sale expedition days.

I love to shop at garage sales and thrift stores.

It keeps me from getting in trouble with out budget, while pursuing my love of stitching.

I found this tablecloth in a stack of miscellaneous sewing materials outside of a rural home. It had some dirt on it but I saw the cherry basket printed on the corner so I opened it up to see what kind of shape it was in. It looked quite yellowed with dust stains on the folds, as if it had sat for quite a while.

When I asked about it, the lady said it was from her Grandmother’s sewing room that they were cleaning out. I paid $5 for it and walked to my car with high hopes that it would wash out clean.


I got my tablecloth home and put it in the washing machine with a scoop of Oxi-Clean and let it sit overnight. The next morning I ran a load of clothes with the table cloth, just adding some regular laundry detergent. Surprisingly, all of the yellow and stains washed-out beautifully, leaving me with a perfectly good stamped pattern to work on.

Cherry Baskets Tablecloth project begins.


What do artists do?

Artists tend to pursue more than one creative venue.

Outside: I do a lot of outside things including walking, hiking and dog walking. Gardening because we grow the majority of our own food. Fishing, bike riding, swimming and skiing. We love the outdoors in the Inland Northwest.

Inside: I do needlework and have been since I was quite young, mostly Embroidery and Sewing. In the evening, I wind-down while watching TV with family by embroidering. There is an ulterior motive for this, I don’t have to watch commercials when I hold something in my hands to stitch.  I sew many other things in my sewing room – like blankets, aprons, bags, quilts and clothes, seat covers or anything else we may need as a family. Sometimes I give away my work, donate to church fundraisers for my tithe, or charities, sell them or just keep for myself.

My Grandma taught me how to do all the embroidery stitches on small things and then gave me a Bucilla printed tablecloth kit for Christmas when I was in high school. It took me a whole year to finish, and a lifelong hobby was born. As an artist I draw my own patterns on the material to stitch now.

Grandma is responsible for many of the best recipes in my kitchen and craft skills in my household and studio. Her name was Opal Evelyn Kilpatrick. She was half Scottish and half Indian and she had that beautiful white hair just like her Mother did. As I snapped this photograph with one of those old Kodak camera, little did I know this would be the last time I would see her in-person before she passed away. She paused for a photo for me at the Lihue, Kauai airport parking lot before we walked over to the gate for her 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 carry this picture in my wallet still.

Here are some pictures of that first tablecloth project. I still remember Grandma’s voice, whenever I spread it on the table to use on a special occasion.



Now I am thinking it will go a lot easier and faster when I start to sew it on the machine.


The first seam goes off without a hitch. Easy & fast! I mistakenly comment to myself that this isn’t going to be that bad after all. Ummmmm.

BUT as I work my way to the interior, it becomes apparent that that is not going to be the case for all of it! Take a quick look at this normal sewing machine space allowance. It looks quite adequate, doesn’t it?

However, getting the material to the right place in the center and then navigating it to sew a straight seam becomes an impossible challenge right away. It is a real test of logistics and physics when trying to fit all the outer edges under that little space to the right of the needle. It is crazy! Involving rolling the sides up tightly then using both hands, in multiple positions, as I sew. I am now a professional contortionist who can pull, tug, center and line-up all at once.

I get it! I understand now, why the price for “long arm” sewing machines is so high. I used to wonder why anyone would pay such a ridiculous price (thousands of dollars) just for a sewing machine. How silly. Now I see why, cause they CAN with any people who end up sewing upholstery. It is so tempting to just say screw it, and buy a machine that will make it easier. Imagine quilting without the hassle of Climbing Mount Everest.

Oh, don’t forget the necessity to own stock in needle manufacturing and Bandaids. The number of EXTRA NEEDLES required as I break them on multiple inconvenient occasions is amazing. I have become a professional needle changer on my machine, thanks to this car seat project. Maybe I should time myself to impress you.

I don’t plan to give up, as my middle name is stubborn. I manage to actually succeed in getting the pad connected to the sitting surfaces of the upholstery.

Ever seen, “The Croods”?… Da, Da, Da!!!

Basting… carseat

The plan is to attach this pad to the upholstery with quilting seams. I get to work, cutting the pad into the basic shapes in my sewing room.

By the way, cutting a furniture pad with scissors makes a guaranteed blister on you hand, thereby increasing the joy with which you approach the rest of the project. NOT!

I cut the pad to fit the surface that you sit on going to the edge of the seat on the bottom. Then as it goes up the back of the seat, I follow the surfaces going up and over (under the head rests) carefully marking where the knobby things are and the corners.

Next, I get to work hand basting the upholstery on top of the padding so I can later roll it to allow sewing the quilt lines on the sewing machine. This is where I discover that needles do not like to penetrate a thick pad and upholstery material. I even have to grab one of my Grandma’s thimbles to save my fingertips after a while.

Searching… carseat sewing cont’d

Searching everywhere!

Closets, shelves, heating room, garage and shop. Wa La! I find a packing pad, the kind you wrap refrigerators in to move. Perfect for the padding underneath. Pulling it out of it’s hiding space I get a whif! Peeee Youuuuu! Badly in need of a bath, so another delay as it is put in the wash, and dried multiple times.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock,Tick Tock.

The packing pad is what I use to lay on the seat and measure the sizes, shapes and surfaces by marking it with my good ole sharpie pen. Who cares, about the marks, they won’t show after the upholstery material is put on top.


The Project begins. I get into the back seat and start to measure with my trusty measuring tape.

Wow! There are sure a lot of curves and thing-a-ma-jigs involved with a Subaru back seat. Hmmmmm.

Two seats divided in the middle with various seat belts on the seat parts with bendable and moveable requirements. Curves everywhere and don’t forget those little knobby things that you have to push down to pull the seat forward or the head rests.

How on earth do you hold it down on the seat? Velcro, elastic, string? Oh my goodness. As I pulled fabric over the seat I realized it was probably too light to absorb that drink that my youngest grandson will probably spill on his first outing.

So, everything screeches to an abrupt halt as I immediately go on a search for absorbent padding to use underneath.

Mystery Sewing Project Story

I already shared that this great sewing project idea was hatched in a fabric store by a beautiful tropical print upholstery material for sale on the clearance rack.

OK… a car seat cover for the back seat of my kinda “new to me” Subaru Outback.

It has a dark interior and is in good shape so before I put paintings and dogs and kids in it I thought I’d sew up a cover to protect it. When I saw the material, it reminded me so much of home that I loved it, as Kahaluu (my home town) has been calling my name lately. I have never sewn upholstery, except for the red caterpillar seat, which was a novel story in itself. Sewing vinyl or leather with a regular sewing machine is tough. But still do-able! For sure! I thought this upholstery material was so much lighter that it would be easy.

After all, what is so hard about measuring and sewing a seat cover, or three? Ha ha. Well… life with an artist…

Hummingbird Tablecloth progressing w/ flora…

There are now nineteen completed hummingbirds embroidered around the edge of this 96″ x 55″ white tablecloth.

I began showing this embroidery project earlier this year, showing each hummingbird as it was being completed, the total tablecloth is progressing nicely to the next level. I began with drawing sketches of what I want to do on the cloth with an iron-off marker, (bought in the quilt section of the fabric store) then just get out my box full of thread (floss) and go for it. It is relaxing like painting with colorful thread for me. TV is often boring – especially the commercials so I enjoy doing this embroidery in the evenings to relax.

When completed my tablecloths don’t sit in a chest not being used. I give them to family, and really love to use them myself for fancy dinners or celebrations, and, I do sell some. I have even been known to take them to church auctions to raise money and do my tithing.


With the 19 birds around the edges complete, I am now adding branches with vines wrapped around them with occasional honeysuckly blossoms mixed-in and it seems to be really coming to life. Here is the first completed corner.

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