Antiques Market Finds

My husband’s family was in town from England to see the new baby, and on a day trip down to Kingston, we visited an antique market (which takes place every Sunday!). There was tons of gorgeous stuff, and I had to hold back with both hands to not spend way too much money.

This market is where my mother picked up one of the prettiest things I own: an old drawer used to hold letters in an old printing press. It’s uneven and a bit dirty and I love it.

This time, I found these two pennants of sorts, a little boy and a little girl. I have no idea how old they are. Most of the stitching is in good shape, so I figure not very old, but they are so sweet, I was totally willing to pay the $10 price tag. But when I mentioned to the lady that I stitched, she brought the price down to $5!

The little spots on her dress are so perfect, I thought it was almost machine work for half a second.  Mine are never so cute!  The edging on both pieces is still super nice.  They really need just a quick ironing.

I want to put them onto little dowels in Zoe’s room when she is big enough to have her own, probably one on top of the other or side to side.  I am thinking that I could do it with two small loops of string on either top corner.  It wouldn’t really wreck the pieces and the threads could be taken out without wrecking the piece.

I love her little mouth!


Latest Estate Sale Finds

Aren’t these totally kitch and adorable?  My mother and I, hesitantly followed by my sister who felt she hadn’t been given all the pertinent information about this trip, found them in a smallish house’s estate sale.   The cupboards were full of white melamine plates and bowls, the basement had a bar decorated with British posters, and in the bedroom, on the wall behind the bed frame, were these two pieces.

I spotted the fact that they were shadow boxes before I even noticed they were embroidered.  Looking out for frames without glass and for shadow boxes is a great way to identify embroidery.  Since embroidery stitches tend to suffer when being crushed under the glass in a traditional framing job, the nicer jobs will typically leave at least a bit of room for the stitches’ 3D-ness to breathe.  There is nearly an inch of room in these frames.

After stepping through the bed frame and pulling them off the wall, I immediately asked how much.  Ten dollars?  Sold!  The people in charge of the estate sale had no idea they were embroidery and not just paintings.  I probably would have had to pay more if they had looked a bit closer.

When I got them home, the glass was so dusty that I thought dust had actually gotten inside the frames.  A quick wash with a bit of soapy water later, I realised they were in excellent shape, just filthy.

There are lots of different knots and techniques, and the two frames look beautiful together, near my kokeshi doll collection and the Xbox. I think they are on silk, but I’m not sure what kind of thread was used. Can anyone identify the thread?  It’s super glossy, but I can’t even really tell if it’s stranded or not.  I think it is…

Vintage Finds in Real Life (with pretty bird patterns)

Last week I pointed out a few good resources for finding vintage patterns online, but there is something exciting about holding a vintage iron on transfer in your hands, or reading a book that says that embroidery is not only one of the most important skills a woman can know, it goes a long way towards getting her married.  Awesome.

I have gotten pretty lucky finding older materials in good shape, so I thought I would share a few hints with you.  Book wise, is the best place to find used books.  You can look up books, then sort it by which vendors are closest to you, in order to get the best shipping costs.  I have bought a few books off of abe, and most of the time I will pay less for the book than for the shipping!

Encyclopedia of Needlework by Th. de Dillmont is a thick, tiny book that is a fabulous look into the past.  The copy I got is in reasonable shape, with the spine having been taped up at some point.  There is no obvious date on this book.  The pages are all still there and legible, and it goes through an extraordinary amount of crafts, from embroidery to tatting to knitting and more.  The instructions are mostly written with a few illustrations sprinkled in.  I love thinking that a woman, by herself with this tiny book, would have learned all these techniques through trial and error (and hopefully help from a friendly neighbour) without having the step by step tutorials and videos we take for granted nowadays.

The back of the book also has an old ordering catalogue for DMC, so that if you were a farm wife living far from the city, you could ask your local grocer to order you a particular few shades so you could finish the embroidered tablecloth you’d been working on.

I’ve also had good luck ordering used (and new) craft books on Etsy.  I ordered a 1964 version of Jacqueline Enthoven’s The Stitches of Creative Embroidery last year and I’ve read it cover to cover.  She concentrates on the importance of samplers and doodling with a needle, has lots of pictures of both her work and her students’, and is super inspiring.  The book is missing it’s dust jacket, but who cares when the content is so awesome?

My mother, sister, and I try to reupholster a few chairs every summer; it’s a fun hobby we can do on the weekends together.  My sister is excellent at demolishing the old chairs, my mom sews beautifully, and I can hammer tacks like nobody’s business.  What this all means is that we tend to hang out at estate sales, thrift shops, and auction houses more than average girls.

Charity shops are hit and miss for vintage finds; sometimes you can pick up a book or a slightly older pattern, but most of the time you’ll just find super cheap embroidery hoops and maybe some random colours of thread.  Still excellent, but not quite vintage.

Estate sales are also tricky, since you never know if the person who recently died was interested in embroidery or not.  Every once in a while though, even if you can’t find embroidery materials, you can find embroidered pieces.  I pulled these three little birds off a wall, fell in love with the dorky stitching on black velvet, and paid a dollar for it.

Auction houses can be interesting.  They tend to buy up estate sales, so you can end up with everything and anything there.  One of the auction houses near my sister’s place is open on weekends, and some of the stuff (mostly furniture on consignment) can be browsed and purchased without having to actually attend an auction (which is not as exciting as it sounds, we found out).

I found two old Coats and Clark’s craft booklets that look like they are from the 60s or 70s.  The prices on the covers are 49 and 35 cents.  I paid a dollar for both.

Both had complete patterns in them, with only one of them being cut out.  They have a mix of embroidery, cross stitch and blackwork in them.  Some patterns have definitely aged better than others, and some of them are so adorably classic that they wouldn’t look out of place in a home today.  Most of the patterns also come with projects; skirts, napkins, glasses cases, wall hangings, whatever.

Here are two of the patterns from the small Coats booklets, three pretty little birds which are suggested for a cute little girl’s dress.  They come out of Book No. 180, and are designs E-182 and E-183.  There is no date anywhere in the booklet.  The patterns are a bit busy; as with a lot of old transfers, folding, time and pressure has caused patterns to imprit on each other.  I would definitely never use them with an iron for fear that I could get two patterns at the same time!  Still, they are super adorable and would look cute pretty much anywhere.

Please do not use these for commercial purposes.   Enjoy!

Vintage Patterns and Orange Chickens

I love vintage patterns.  I like them kitsch, I love them nonsensical and I love them pretty. Sometimes I don’t really get them, like the myriad days of the week tea towel patterns.  Did people ever really change their kitchen tea towels every single day?  Perhaps before dishwashers…Anyway, vintage patterns are a great way to practice embroidery without spending too much money.  There are thousands and thousands of patterns of various size and complexity out there, and although you can’t necessarily sell what you make from them, they are perfect for personal use and practice.

Two of the best places to find vintage patterns on Flickr are the two following groups: Hoop Love Vintage Transfers and Vintage Embroidery Patterns.  The groups have over 4000 and 7000 images respectively.  There is some overlap between the two groups, since some people post to both, but I still check out both of them often.

I found this gorgeous pattern on Faster KittyKill’s blog.  She features lots of patterns on there.  There are matching roosters, too, but I just liked this chick.  It was also good practice for teeny tiny consistent back stitch.   Look how pretty they all are!  This was a simple, relaxing pattern to stitch, a nice break from the hardcore crewelwork I had done the week before or the mind numbing cross-stitch I am looking at doing this week.

Another great place to find patterns is on doe-c-doe’s blog.  The patterns she posts are always cleaned up really well to allow the clearest transfers possible.  She also stamps all her patterns which makes it easy to remember where you found it originally.

My best tip is to make use of tools like Flickr’s favorites or a Pinterest board to keep all your patterns organized.  That way you never have to wonder where you got the random file you found on your computer that you saved last year was from when it comes to giving proper credit.  My embroidery Pinterest board is filled with patterns, inspiration, links to etsy and even a few quilts that are too pretty to pass up.  Similarly, my Flickr favorites has both inspiration pieces and patterns from all over Flickr.  I also have an rss feed of anything on Flickr that is tagged with the word embroidery, so that I have eye candy in my reader every morning.  You can learn how to workout lots of rss feeds out of Flickr on this page at  There is even a quick one line URL you can edit to make a feed out of any tag!  Awesome!


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet…

I have a particular piece of text, written by Shakespeare, which is very close to my heart. I have thought of getting it tattooed many times before, and I decided I was going to stitch it this spring. After figuring out how to make it pretty and round on the computer (thank you David!) I realised the smallest I could make the text is size 21. That is big for typing, but pretty small for stitching.

So I decided I needed a smaller piece of text for practice, something that was still going to be a good paragraph but nothing too fancy. So this happened:

For an awesome history of lorem ipsum, check out this page.  If you would like to stitch it, here is the full original dummy text (that has been in use since the 1500s) shaped into a pretty circle.  I picked a nice non-serif font in order to be able to trace it more or less in my own hand writing.  I didn’t want all the letters to be exact or too perfect.  The hoop is 5×5 inches.

I’m not sure when I will get to my Hamlet piece, which is easily twice as long as the lorem ipsum, but we’ll see!

Subersive Sues – Slightly NSFW

Why is it so much fun to combine something innocent and childlike, like a Sunbonnet Sue or a lovely little bit of cross stitch sampler, with something rude or obscene?  It’s not like I’m the first.  Subversive Cross Stitch has been around since forever, offering pretty samplers with  delicious sayings such as “Don’t Make Me Cut You” or “Chill The Fuck Out“.  MrXstitch has a weekly column called NSFW Saturdays where the only thing between the reader and stitched rudeness is an adorable picture of a kitten or a bunny.

Maybe the urge is nasty: the desire to pervert a genre and a style so grounded in preciseness and propriety, that we just want to wreck it because we can.  But I don’t think that’s it.

Embroidery has for the longest time been a feminine endeavor.  It’s what pretty ladies learned to do to occupy their time and it’s how housewives made their homes more homey.  The patterns I used for my three little girls were supposed to be for dish cloths, one for pans, one for china and one for dishes.  We live in such a different world; not only do I not see the point of having three (and more!) dish cloths for different types of dishes, I would never dream of using something that I spent time and effort on to wipe up wet dishes!  Embroidery is no longer as utilitarian as it has once been; it’s definitely more of an art form.

As art, we need it to say something.  If that something is Fuck, than so be it.  Honestly, it was the sight of this poor girl losing her balloon that made me think of it; what would I say if my balloon slipped out of my grasp: Fuck!

The three girls come from mmaammbr‘s flickr account, which holds thousand of beautiful vintage patterns.  They don’t really identify the origin of most of these patterns, so I would never use them for something I would sell, but for private use, they are fabulous.  They feature tons of kitchen themed pieces, as well as multiple sets of seven illustrations outlining which chores are to be done on which day of the week.  Did you know Tuesday is laundry day if you believe this chubby kitty?  I’m pretty sure laundry day is whenever the basket gets full for most of us.


My Grandfather.

My grandfather, Roch Dallaire, passed away on the 7th of November, 2011.  He was 87.

At my grandmother’s wake, her daughter played classical music to celebrate her love of music and the cello.  At his, they displayed all the pieces he had stitched, both for my grandmother, himself and for the rest of his family.  There were baby samplers, a few sailboats, a pair of pieces showing women working in fields and even a large, pretty Sun-Bonnet Sue type piece which my grandmother had loved.  It was an eclectic mix of large pieces, stitched on 14 and 16 count aida, which was as small as he could work, considering how most of them were done quite late in his life.  Some were framed professionally, some had the aida stuck together with tape behind the frames.

My dad asked me if I could speak at the funeral.  I did, drawing people’s attention back to the pieces which had been mentionned a few times before already.  I told the small group, which consisted mostly of family, that there were hundreds of hours in those works, and that, especially when you stitch something for someone else, a tiny bit of love and a tiny bit of thought goes into every stitch, into every cross, and that love and thought was always for his family.  He never sold any of his pieces, always gave them to family or to his wife.

He is remembered by five children, twelve grandchildren, and the community he contributed to in Chicoutimi, Québec.