Make a Tote Bag with Vintage Doilies

While teaching and traveling in Australia this last February, I was given quite a few lovely pieces of handwork and Aussie fabrics. I have them all hanging in my studio and a few weeks ago I was inspired to create something special with two of the pieces.

On my longarm I have a backing, then Hobbs 80/20 batting, then the super cute, Koala background fabric. At this point, I ran an edge to edge design over the background fabric, THEN, laid the two doilies on top of the fabric.

Let’s start at the beginning and I’ll take you through the process. Under each linen I added a single layer of Hobbs 80/20 batting to give an extra loft. It also hides the print that is under the doily. I cut the batting larger than the doily and trim it away after I have quilted the linen.

I stabilize the piece by “ditch” stitching around the inside edge of the crocheted trim. I leave that scant 1/8″ so that I can trim away the batting later. You’ll see what happens when I finish quilting. I quilt on a Handi Quilter Fusion and here I am using the “Glide” foot. It is almost a necessity when stitching lace and embroideries. You can see it glides right over all the thickness.

At this point I will stitch around ALL the embroidery. I never stitch over the handwork, but around everything! It gives the piece great definition and pops it right out of the linen. Deciding on the design usually comes as I am outlining all of the embroidery.  You can see the spine I have created for the eventual feathers. I like to use a blue, water soluble pen for marking. (TIP: to remove blue marks completely and seemingly forever, mix 1 t baking soda to 1 cup of water, place in a spray bottle. This mix must be fresh each day it is used.)

I trimmed the batting to the inside edge of the trim crochet, using a curved pair tiny, sharp scissors. My favorites are a simple pair of cuticle scissors!

After the batting is trimmed, I lay down the crochet and stitch the outside edge to cover any of the batting that might have not been precisely trimmed. It always covers that raw edge of batting.

You can see here how much stitching I put into the embroidery.

The full piece was taken off the frame and split in half, therefore, creating both sides for the tote bag. I made both sides a bit different. I also TEA stained the pieces once I had the quilting done to make the fabric match the age of the linen. This really made the whole thing come together!

Next, I sewed the halves together and also made a lining WITH a pocket for the inside.

Handles were added, also tea stained.

And there you have it! A new tote bag made by repurposing an antique linen. It’s also a fabulous reminder of the great friends I made in Australia! (Special thanks to Lynne for the handwork and Caroline for the fabric!)

I hope this post helped to see the process for some of the bits of handwork we all have hiding in our drawers. Try it, you’ll become a lover of vintage repurposing!

OKLAHOMA! Pillow Art Embroidery

Uncategorized | June 12, 2015 | By

I purchased this pillow cover from an antique dealer in California. What a terrific find! We lived a wonderful 15 years in Oklahoma. I was born there, my children were born there. Sentimentally, it’s fabulous!

Oklahoma original

As I collect these pieces I find that many are unfinished or minimally embroidered. I always wonder what interrupted the maker. Did they get ill, pass, become disinterested in the project.  Nowadays, we might call these UFO’s (unfinished objects)! Nonetheless, they are wonderful examples of handwork history. On a piece like this it doesn’t matter too much. I know I’ll stitch it to eternity and beyond, so you’ll never miss the embroidery!


The first thing I do is baste the pillow around the edges. I’m using a double batting, 80/20 Hobbs Heirloom on the bottom and washable wool on the top. It makes for quite a “pouf”, but the quilting calms the whole. It’s a bit scary in the beginning and can drag the machine slightly.


The fun begins after everything is outlined. I start the design process with things I know I want for sure. Then the piece begins to “talk” and before you know, VIOLA!!


The leaves were very wispy, so I knew I had to do a bit of McTavishing. The greenery of the embroidery made me think of the garden, so I decided it needed a trellis of sorts.


I love how this almost 100 year old pillow was made modern! Enjoy the rest of the show!



Before and after!




I plan to do a very tiny binding in a green satin. My sweet hubs will make me a small wood frame for the backing and it will hang proudly on my wall.  Someday I may sell some of my pieces, but not just yet!


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