Ben’s Wool-filled Blanket

We decided recently it’s time for Ben to receive his own wool blanket, made by the St. Peter Woolen Mill, in St. Peter, Minnesota.  This is something we’ve done for each of our children as well as ourselves:  a cotton quilt with a warm wool batting…the best thing to take the chill off a cold Minnesota night.

The quilt top shown here was made of fabric scraps from corduroy clothing my husband’s mother had made for him when he was small, in the 70’s.  His mother had sewn them into quilt blocks, but tucked them away with the busyness of life. The blocks were recently found and passed to us by my father-in-law. My daughter decided to sew them into a quilt top and then also set it aside.

We pulled it out again and turned it into a twin-size quilt for Ben’s bed.  I found a navy corduory by B. Black & Sons at Ginny’s Fine Fabrics and added a border.  My husband stopped by Eagle Creek Quilt Shop in Shakopee, Minnesota, when he was on business in the area, and found a navy cotton backing fabric. I packaged the quilt top and backing fabric up, and off it all went to the St. Peter’s Woolen Mill for assembly.

This is the eighth blanket we’ve had made at the St. Peter’s Woolen Mill.  Most often, we’ve sent a few yards of our chosen quilting fabric, no piecing required.  Twice, we’ve had a quilt top that has a little sentimental value, like this one, to send over.  They take it from there.

Several years ago, my family visited the St. Peter’s Woolen Mill for a tour.  We enjoyed seeing the large machinery they use to clean and prepare wool (old or new) for various uses, like wool battings for quilts and comforters.  The wool batting is covered in cheese cloth before it is put into a blanket.  The mill also has a very large room with industrial sewing machines where they assemble blankets.

Now I know Ben will be very comfortable in the winter months when the temperature is very cold outside and the house thermometer is set to 65 degrees F.

Tweed and bindings

My opportunities to sew seem fewer and farther between lately, thus my low frequency in posting here.  To be fair to myself, though, I have knocked off a few UFOs lately.  Clearing the decks and making way for greater things.

Last week, I finished a tailored skirt for myself (which wasn’t a UFO at all, but something I wanted to do.)  The best part of this skirt is that it fits me.  I drafted my own pattern and have tried and trued it.  Now it is ‘simples’ to make a skirt for myself.  It is a simple straight, tailored skirt with a kick pleat, which  gives ease for the stride.  It is made of a tweed fabric found at Ginny’s Fine Fabric, and it is lined with Bemberg lining. It is very comfortable. I wore it this weekend with a cream colored sweater, brown boots and a matching scarf.

Also this week, I re-bound an old quilt.  Quilting has not been my hobby for some time.  I prefer creating clothing.  But, this quilt is like an old friend.  I made it in about 2002 when my third daughter was a baby.  A friend in Colorado gave a few sewing lessons to me.  She was an avid quilter, and she showed me a technique for creating the pinwheels on this quilt.  The quilt decorated my husband’s and my bed, a wooden sleigh bed, for about 10 years.  It used to have white panels on all sides and a border with small triangle blocks, making it a king-size quilt, but the embossed fabric gave way.  I decided to remove the panels and re-bind it, saving it as a keepsake.  Since my husband needed to work for a day in Shakopee, he agreed to stop by the Eagle Creek Quilt Shop, and purchase a navy quilt weight fabric for my task.  I still love the pattern.  I wish the fabric had lasted longer, like the quilts of old.

My apologies for writing so little.  2016 was a year of transition for my family.  My oldest daughter is off to college.  She is doing very well, and we are so proud of her.  She hopes to become a pediatric nurse.

Also in 2016, I quietly ended my small business.  It has been a delightful experience providing smocking and heirloom sewing supplies to many wonderful people for ten years, but I am needed in many more ways with my family now.  I plan to continue sewing and encouraging others who are keeping the art of sewing alive.  I thought I would share my list of my favorite suppliers:

Ginny’s Fine Fabric

Acorn Fabric

Huddersfield Cloth

John Hanna Ltd.

Creative Smocking

Farmhouse Fabrics

Chadwick Heirlooms

Delicate Stitches

Creations by Michie

Collars Etc.


For quilters:

Eagle Creek Quilts

Wholesale Only:

Bear Threads Ltd.

B. Black & Sons





A Tailored Vest, and a sincere thank-you

This Post is re-posted from the Cutter and Tailor Forum, in order to share it here as well.

I want to share the vest that I worked on during 2015-2016. I am a beginner in the area of tailoring, and I have been working under the direction of Mansie Wauch, from the Cutter and Tailor Forum, and locally Virginia Smith at Ginny’s Fine Fabric.

I had in my possession a few yards of a red check wool cloth that I’m told was woven by the Amana Colonies, purchased by my late mother-in-law. I decided it would be a suitable (if not perfect) opportunity to try making a vest that is hand drafted and fitted to myself. I purchased B. Black & Sons’ hair canvas and Bemberg lining through Ginny’s Fine Fabric in Rochester, Minnesota.

The past few years, I have been on a mission to work through pattern drafting for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of pattern making and fitting. I recognize that hand pattern drafting is an expensive endeavor in time and effort, and there are CAD systems for this purpose, as well as a plethora of available patterns, but I wanted to try my hand at it and learn for myself. I kept the overall design simple, as I wanted to focus on fit, and matching the check (plaid).

I followed Sator’s encouragement that a first attempt would take at least 6 months, and the clothing article might be only worthy of the trash bin at the end. However, I’ll admit I had a secondary goal of making something I’d still use. This project did, in fact, require hours of reading any resource I could find through the tailor’s forum. The key resources I found helpful were the Art of Garment Making, by A. A. Whife, and Coat and Skirt Making, by Samuel Heath.

The lapel is interlined with hair canvas and hand pad stitched, and so are the fronts and the back. It is stayed with linen tape. I experienced the difficulty and care involved in this traditional tailoring method.

There are three hand-made button holes worked here, though I will not yet share a close up picture of my work there… It is a work in progress, but they are functioning well so far. I greatly appreciate Callum at Bay Tailor Supply in California. He provides a nice service of matching the buttonhole twist to the cloth, as well as the gimp. I found the buttons at Ginny’s Fine Fabric.

I struggled with several things during this project; too many to put into this thank-you note.  There are many things I could have done better. But, overall I am pleased with my vest. It is as I envisioned it. It has an equestrian theme (having to do with my rural upbringing), and likely a rural or country flare. I wore it several times this fall with tall boots and jeans, fitting the relaxed mood in the Rochester, Minnesota, area. It is the most comfortable vest I own, and it will be a long-term piece of clothing in my wardrobe.

I share this project because I believe tailoring is a beautiful art, and I want to encourage others to pursue it. I also want to say thank you publicly to Mansie Wauch, who is generous with his knowledge of cutting and tailoring. I also feel a thank-you is due to all who have worked to bring this forum about. I have appreciated reading the various posts over the past few years.


Stumpwork Class with Susan OÇonnor

It was a lovely time attending the Stumpwork class with Susan OÇonnor in Richfield, Minnesota, on September 17, along with the ladies of the Lakes & Prairies Chapter of the Smocking Arts Guild of America.  We had the opportunity to learn needle art techniques necessary to create the “raspberry and bluebell” design below.


We were provided with a project kit which included a piece of duchess silk satin and squares of an appropriate-weave muslin to work the ‘slips’, 28 gauge gold wire, and DMC thread.   The project instructions were in the familiar format we all enjoyed when Susan served as the editor in chief of Australian Smocking & Embroidery.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn under Susan.  She is a great teacher and a delightful person.

Meeting at the Pines, we enjoyed lunch with Susan.  Again, I greatly enjoyed meeting Susan, having been an enthusiastic fan for so many years of Australian Smocking & Embroidery magazine.


Of course, we had very little time to visit with one another, and then it was back to stitching!  The class extended into Sunday afternoon, and I was not able to attend the second session, due to family obligations and a college-aged daughter being home for her birthday; however, I was so glad to attend on Saturday with my dear friends.  I’m looking forward to working through this project as the cool weather rolls into Fall in Minnesota.

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Our many thanks to Susan OÇonnor…


Nutcracker Attire

My friend, Karen Uthe, created not one, not two, but three elegant hand- smocked dresses for her three granddaughters to attend the Nutcracker ballet with her in the Twin Cities last fall.


Emma’s ‘Sheer Delight’

“I was so inspired when my 2005 issue #70 of the Australian Smocking and Embroidery came, and I saw the ‘Sheer Delight’ outfit by Janet Anderson in it,” said Cyndy Pond of Hastings, Minnesota.  “Unfortunately, I had no one to make it for at the time as my granddaughter, Emma Rose, wasn’t born until 2008. After she was born, I knew I had to wait a few years until she was old (big) enough to wear it, but it was always at the back of my mind that I would one day make it for her.”


“Then last year, SAGA announced the competition categories for its national convention. I was planning on attending the Chicago convention, and when “White” was chosen as the theme, I decided the time had come to make ‘Sheer Delight’.


“I went about gathering the materials needed. The original pattern called for white cotton netting, but I really couldn’t justify spending $35- $40 per yard for a child’s garment (the top alone required about three yards). I ended up using an organic cotton batiste that I ordered from an online source. It was wonderful to work with, and I was very pleased with the results.


“There were a lot of embroidered flowers on it, and this was my first time making cast-on flowers. I had always balked at making them, because I thought they looked complicated. But after making my first flower, I wondered why I had waited so long to try them. They were a lot easier than bullions, and they are so delicate and pretty.


“Even though I didn’t win, I was very pleased with the end result…and so was Emma Rose!”

Thank you, Cyndy, for allowing me to share Emma’s outfit.  It is very beautiful.  It will be a treasured memory for Emma Rose.