Sewing and Crochet Art Forms

Don’t Be Afraid to Sew

Mary Kilpatrick Schultheis
My Mom, Mary Kilpatrick right after graduation from high school in Kansas 1952

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.

Learning

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.

Crochet too

Mary Schultheis 1970s

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.

Embroidering was Family Learned

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

Great Grandma Sedilla
Great-Grandmother Oxendine 1911

My Great-Grandmother did Scottish tatting and embroidery on elegant dish towels, quilts, doilies, pillowcases and dresses.

Grandma Embroidering

Sedilla with daughter Opal 1950
Opal Kilpatrick with her mother, Sedilla in 1950’s

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.

Opal Kilpatrick
My Grandma, Opal Kilpatrick at the Lihui, Kauai HI airport parking lot in 1988.

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.

Embroidered Cherry Tablecloth Sold

Complete

Dorothy M Lowe (Woelk)
My mother-in-Law Dorothy Woelk

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.

Cherry tablecloth corner
donated to charity embroidered tablecloth

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.

Mennonite Country Auction.

or their Facebook page here. Other needlework project blog posts.

Cherry Embroidery Tablecloth

cherry tablecloth angleBeginning

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.

cherry tablecloth side
Side Tablecloth View

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.

When Finished

cherry tablecloth angle
Entire tablecloth view showing cherry basket.

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.

cherry tablecloth angle close
Full view, embroidery cherry tablecloth.

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.

Quilting…carseat

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

Right?

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.

Measuring

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…