Posted November 17th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Other Artists, Quilting Tips, Vintage

Six hand-pieced bowtie quilt blocks, circa 1935, each 3″ square.

And there are many more!

Kay’s Christmas quilt – almost finished.

Elizabeth’s autumn leaves creation.

Kay’s fabulous tote.

Elizabeth advises Debra on quilting motifs for her red and green applique’ beauty.

A portion of the large, bright meeting room.

Charlotte’s skyline from the 10th floor of Elizabeth’s building.

Being an artist is often a lonely occupation.  I need quiet and solitude when designing, but missed the fellowship I’d known in groups to which I’d belonged years ago.  I missed sewing with my late Mother and sewing with my sister.  I needed friends!

Early this year, I was lucky enough to grab the last spot in a newly formed quilting bee through my quilt guild.  And it was for folks in my neighborhood!  Yea!  I purposely joined this group because I knew almost none of the members.

This venture has turned out to be just what I needed.  As a member of the Queen Bee, I’m getting to know some great women.  We laugh, we share, we listen, and of course we EAT!  What began as two-hour morning meetings has turned into quilt-a-thons.

Elizabeth was our hostess this month.  Her retirement home has a fabulously huge room on the 10th floor. It was lovely and bright, complete with hot coffee and tea and the most divine blueberry scones I’ve ever had!  Oh my.

Above are photos of our day. Word has gotten out that “the quilters” were in the building.  A woman and her daughter arrived with a grandmother’s flower garden quilt top complete wiwth pathways of 1930’s green.  Her daughter had dozens of 3″ bowtie blocks, all perfectly hand-pieced with the tiniest stitches.  These women were not quilters and needed information.  “What do I do with these?  How do I finish this?  Do you know anyone who could quilt this for me?”  We oohed and ahed over the 1930’s treasures – such a treat to see.  And the mother and daughter left armed with information on how to finish and care for their family heirlooms.  It was a great day!

Hiding in Plain Sight

Posted March 18th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in My collections, Thrifting Mondays, Uncategorized, Vintage

Several years ago, one of our neighbors died at the ripe old age of 106.  A native Charlottean, the woman grew up with film star Randolph Scott, also a hometowner.

Mrs. M, as I shall call her, had lived in her home for at least 75 years.   And the place was stuffed to the gills.  I’d been in the home just once, shortly after we moved to the street as newlyweds.  Mrs. M. had invited several of her new neighbors in for tea.  I remember being fascinated by the tiny green stove on legs in the miniscule kitchen.

After Mrs. M. died, the family went through the home’s contents.  What they didn’t want was to be sold at an estate sale.  How thrilling – an estate sale right down the street!   I wanted to buy the contents of the garage, filled to the rafters, until I learned it had to be emptied and taken away the day of the sale.

My biggest purchase that day was a beautiful old rope bed (what was I thinking)?  To this day, it sits in our garage.  I missed out on a fabulous vintage typewriter – curved and in its original carrying case.  In pristine condition, I don’t think it had ever been used.  I’ve never seen another like it.

I ended up buying three or four old mirrors and samplers wrought on punched paper.  All have been leaning against the west end of our upright piano ever since.  Finally deciding to let them go, I recently got them out to dust.  All must have been stored in an attic at one time, as the paper on the backs was crumbly and disintegrating.   I removed what was left, only to find the cardboard graphics used as liners.  What fun!  I’m sure the advertisement for Ward’s Fine Bread  (circa 1920?) is worth more that the mirror on the other side.  Another  vintage piece was backed with a small portion of an old ad. The biggest clue to its origin is the image of a woman’s skirt and high heeled pumps on the upper right hand side.  Portions of several words are also visible.

For years I’ve collected vintage kitchen containers and advertising.  I can’t wait to peek inside the frames of my other purchases to view what’s been hiding in plain sight!

Susan Edmonson’s “Twigs and Tweets”

Posted March 10th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Birds, Exhibitions, Other Artists, Quilt Events, Uncategorized, Vintage

Susan holds a copy of her book, “Twigs and Tweets”

Charlotte Quilters’ Guild Quilt Show, “Through the Garden Gate”

My super talented friend Susan Edmonson has a new book!  “Twigs and Tweets” is hot off the press.  It features 15 of Susan’s designs plus options for more.  As you can see from her booth display, Susan is super talented with a delightful, whimsical folk-art sense of style.  Her things are unique, equisitely detailed and full of surprise.

Passionate Roots by Susan Edmonson.

Her words:  “This mixed media book was created for my “Stitched with Creativity” retreat from 2012.  My inspiration was from all that the trees have to teach us.””

I’ve known Susan for well over 25 years.  We met through our quilt guild, but became friends when I was a dealer at the antiques fair, and Susan was my best button customer.

Along with friend Kristie Steiner, Susan hosts an annual “Stitched with Creativity” retreat.  For further information on the retreats or Susan’s new book, contact her here: or visit her website: Read more about Susan in this recent article from The Charlotte Observer:

Time to Let Go?

Posted March 8th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in My collections, Personal, Thrifting Mondays, Vintage

Yo Yo Quilt, Circa 1930

Lone Star, Circa 1900-1920

Courthouse Steps, Circa 1890-1910

I was 26 when we moved into this house.  We lived here when our son was born.  We lived here when he graduated from college.  We lived here when he got married and we live here now that he and his wife have two adorable babies.  There are more than 40 years of memories within these walls.  Besides those, I would be hard pressed to name everything our home contains.  Its contents are boundless.

In my defense, I’m a child of parents whose early years of marriage were in the middle of The Great Depression.  They were extremely frugal, hard working midwestern stock – the original generation of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”  Those traits and skills were passed on to my three sisters and me.  I NEVER get rid of something which can be used by someone else.  Things are  repaired, recycled, donated, passed down, clung to or sometimes sold.  It literally hurts my heart to see useful things discarded.

I also love old things, family things.  Our house is furnished with things from our parents, thrift stores, estate sales or SOR (side of road). Although we really don’t have the space, how can I get rid of the 19th century piano my father purchased when I was 10 years old?   Or the Eastlake chair painstakingly needlepointed by my aunt Alda, the same person who paid for a year’s worth of piano lessons for me?  Or the solid oak oval table I bought for $10. in 1963?

For many years I was an antiques dealer, doing two markets a month.  “A booth must look fresh,” was the advice from a seasoned friend.  So every Saturday morning I was out before dawn, scrounging merchandise from garage sales.  Back in the day I was usually home by 9 a.m. with a carload of treasures.  Days were spent combing thrift stores for things old and different.  Goods turned over quickly, necessitating the never ending quest.  I’ve also rented space in antiques shops, selling on consignment.  Today, the internet offers me the best options for a quick sale.  Although I have a record of the hundreds I’ve things I’ve sold since 1985, some of which I should have held onto, such as the Charleston sweetgrass beverage tray with attached glass holders,  I still have too much.

All of our son’s childhood books and toys (with their original boxes) are here, as are his special baby clothes.  One day the kids will have fun going through his things in the attic, deciding what to keep for their own children and perhaps what to sell.

Regular readers will know I’ve been culling for years.  When I get discouraged and think I’m not making progress, I look at the huge pile of once overflowing Rubbermaid containers, now empty,  and know I’ve come a long way.

My late father-in-law spent the last few years of his life doling out possessions to family members.  A friend dying of lung cancer did the same thing.  I treasure the things which came from granddaddy, and the china from my late friend James Dial.

Shown above are three quilts I’ll probably sell soon.  They aren’t family pieces and were originally purchased to sell.  Maybe it’s time to let go.

Making Do

Posted December 13th, 2012 by Ellen and filed in Dyeing Tips, Holidays, My Work, Quilting Tips, Vintage

Vintage textiles and sewing goods have always been loves of mine.  I’ve  collected them for decades.  Amongst my stash of wares is a box full of cording, twill tape, rayon spools, rick rack and bias binding. This year, I’m making a few small Christmas gifts, but wasn’t pleased with my fabrics at hand for finishing.  Admittedly, I really didn’t want to search for and make binding from scratch either, thinking it would take too much time.  My solution?  Sacrifice a couple packages from my vintage collection and paint them with a wash.  I’m very pleased with the results!  Back in the day, Wright’s binding was made from a very nice cotton with a crisp hand.  It turned out exactly as I’d imagined.

My method:

1.  Moisten bias binding* and wring out.  Wrinkles are desirable.

2.  Shake out binding slightly and place in small plastic bag.

3.  Add a small amount of watered down fabric paint.  I used one made for silk.

4.  Squeeze bag, making sure paint gets on all areas of the binding.  Light areas are fine, as is an uneven tie-dye look.

5.  Lay slightly wrinkled binding on plastic or waxed paper to dry.  Press prior to use.

*I used vintage, 100%  white cotton.

Have fun!