Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

“Remember That Time Mom Cut Up The Tablecloth?”

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Dear Ann,
I don’t know what makes me do the things I do. They always seem like a good idea at the time. Recently I cut up 2 fancy French tablecloths that are precious to me as heirlooms, as souvenirs of happy trips to France and as reminders of how much I love a good tablecloth.
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Background: Before knitting, and certainly before quilting, I had a Tablecloth Thing. When I saw a gorgeous tablecloth (and this was usually in France), I would buy it for my “collection”. My collection eventually numbered a modest half dozen absolutely stunning, ass-kickingly beautiful tablecloths. (If you like that sort of thing. If not, they are just tablecloths.) For all you tablecloth aficionadas out there, yes, I am talking about Beauville, and I am talking about Souleiado. I have worn out a couple of petits fleurs de France, such is my affection for them.
Somehow, I managed to buy the same exact pattern twice, on trips that were 10 years apart. When I was picking out the second one, Carrie said, “Don’t you have that one?” And I said, no! no! It’s similar to that one, but it couldn’t possibly be the same.
Well. It was the same. And neither of these twin tablecloths fits my actual table anymore. And Carrie thinks they’re too gray and beige. So the idea occurred to cut them up and sew them back together with inserts pieced from a few of my most favorite scraps of fabric.
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The project is at the 3/4 point. It’s too late for second thoughts, so I’m having them. I pinked the raw edges to make the back neater, seeing as how I still consider this Frankenstein tablecloth an heirloom. But I don’t think that’s heirloomy enough; I don’t like seeing the seams and I’m not sure they’ll launder well. (I had considered French seams but rejected them as too bulky.) Now I’m thinking there will be some way to put a lining on the back of the two pieced strips to tidy up the seaminess. I can hand-sew it down like a binding. Any actual seamstresses out there with ideas for me? Bueller?
Speaking of Expert Seamstresses
On a recent visit to Providence, my mind was blown by a visit to Kreatelier on Hope Street, which is the boutique and studio of Pernilla Frazier. Pernilla hails from Sweden. She has an aesthetic that makes one curse the fact that one was not born in Sweden. I almost could not resist the urge to hunker down at a sewing machine and demand to be taken on as Pernilla’s apprentice.
For example, here is Pernilla’s take on the venerable concept of the Tea Towel Quilt.
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Old linen tea towels, with appliques from a favorite vintage fabric, I think from curtains. (Pernilla does not throw out old fabrics.) There is something Japanese mixed in with the Swedish, don’t you think? It’s heavy as can be. An ancestral bedcover if ever there was one. It’s fresh and modern and also looks like something that might have been on the bed in My Antonia‘s sod house–which is exactly the look I go for.
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And here is a Hankie Quilt by Pernilla. How does she manage to do this without that fusty Victorian vibe that can overtake a hankie assemblage? Can you imagine what would happen if you set Pernilla loose on a small stash of Vera dishtowels (she said, eyeing her small stash of Vera dishtowels)? This girl has got it going ON.
I will admit that I did not leave without commissioning a Small Work.
And here is the coup de grace. Dotty Chair Fans, put your hands together and scream We’re! Not! Worthy! for Pernilla’s Dotty Chair to beat all dotty chairs:
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It is a wonder I didn’t move in.
More about Pernilla later.
Love,
Kay

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56 Comments

56 Comments

  1. I live in the middle of nowhere and I love the things you document (I don’t see this stuff in my every day or vacay for that matter)…it makes me want to stay home and sew and see if I can make it too!

  2. My mother embroidered a cross stitch tablecloth which was done in squares and then assembled. As I remember, the seams were carefully pressed open and then cross-stitched (on the right side) over the seam. Seems to me it was some combination of 1 and 3 stitches, sort of like this:
    x
    xxx
    x
    xxx
    This held the seams flat and hid them at the same time. You might consider something like this for your tablecloth.

  3. I am in love with the hanky quilt. Now I have an excuse to buy all those old hankies I always want but thought I had no use for. (Somehow my fingers typed “naky quilt” instead of hanky quilt the first time. I suppose it would be good for that too . . .)

  4. I read with mere mild interest until getting to the handkerchief quilt. Oh! My goodness! What a beauty! And an inspiration…

  5. I definitely think that a good pressing, adding a backing and quilting it along the design lines (or free motion if you’re adventurous) minus the batting would finish it off wonderfully.
    Especially if you’ll be using it on a table – the backing will work as a slip and keep the seams from showing up shockingly pale against the rest of the tablecloth.

  6. I just got home from a happy trip to France (Suleiado included), and I love what you are doing with the tablecloths.
    What a great post!

  7. I’m going to Providence and stuffing that dotty chair in the back of my station wagon. I’ll tell you what! My Antonia is one of my favorite books. I also love Death comes for the Archbishop. They’re both in my top ten.

  8. I’m with marielle on this. We have a batting-less quilt that David made years ago for summer use, and I think a similar treatment would protect the raw edges on this project and still leave it thin enough to use as a tablecloth.

  9. Is it going to be another tablecloth?
    I’m no seamstress, so I really can’t help with that at all.
    I do have opinions about things. (c: One, if the tablecloths are pretty and make you happy, do what you will! Two, how can anything be too gray or two beige?
    I really need to go to France. I’ve wanted to for about thirty-five years. Time to plot running away from home…

  10. French linens, Oh my! I have a feeling you have already considered this option and rejected it, but, here goes: why not turn the tablecloth into a quilted tablecloth? Depending how fancy you’re feeling, you could line it with a handkerchief linen, muslin, or even another gorgeous French tablecloth or French fabric by the yard for a reversible option — and use batting or not (if you use batting it will not drape as nicely, but it could be lovely cut to the size of your tabletop). You could go all out with the quilting, if you had a hankering for such things, or you could just stitch in the ditch, or very close to the ditch (thus securing your seams). Otherwise, I think that you just need to trust in the power of your iron to make those seams a little less, well, seamy. But one final option, that I’ve never tried, would be to get some very lightweight ribbon (be sure to wash it in the same way that you would the tablecloth before attaching) and tack it on in some way — all the ways I can imagine would elevate your tablecloth into high heirloom status and involve lots of tiny, tiny hand sewn stitches.

  11. i love how you recycled the table clothes. We had a small at home impromptu wedding and i had used a favorite remnant of fabric as the table cloth. I dragged that cloth around for a number ofyears before turning it into a special fall quilt, which seems to always end up on the table. I love the textiles you showcase. I wish there were more of those in our area!

  12. I am not a tablecloth afficianado, but I do love me a good heirloom. And, I especially love one I can use. I think you made the right call.
    I met the coolest lady a few years ago who was taking beautiful hardanger lace and mashing it into clay. But she was making the most beautiful dishes – that wash instead of lying there as unusable white doilies. She said not to tell anyone because she was afraid they’d come after her. But, I’ve used my dish to hold my ring almost every day since. I’m sure your tablecloth’s second life will be even better than its first.

  13. I’m all about seam binding right now. I know, binding a seam with seam binding! But well coordinated seam binding or bias tape on the back could look really awesome.

  14. I bought one-yard pieces of six different graphic fabrics at Ikea a few years ago, cut them into different width strips and then serged them together making one piece of fabric. My intent was to make tote bags from the resulting big piece, but instead made a couple of knitting needle cases. I have a bunch left. Now you’ve got me imagining a tablecloth. I don’t use tablecloths. Maybe it’s time to start.

  15. I was going to suggest the identical thing to Rachel T… seam binding. You can make your own or purchase a coordinating tone. It’s the exact smae thing as binding the edges of a quilt, but you’re wrapping the seam allowances.
    If you did this to each seam allowance separately and then pressed them ope it would be much like a hong kong finish found inside good tailored garments.

  16. I was going to suggest the exact smae thing as Rachel T… in fact I still will… Seam Binding!
    You can make your own or purchase a coordinating color or tone. It’s just like binding the edges of a quilt but done around the allowances.
    If you did each seam allowance separately and then pressed them open it would be similar to a Hong Kong finish such as you see inside good tailored garments.

  17. I was going to suggest the exact same thing as Rachel T… in fact I still will… Seam Binding!
    You can make your own or purchase a coordinating color or tone. It’s just like binding the edges of a quilt but done around the allowances.
    If you did each seam allowance separately and then pressed them open it would be similar to a Hong Kong finish such as you see inside good tailored garments.

  18. Seam binding has been mentioned so I’ll skip that. Does your sewing machine have fancy stitches? (Or do you have a friend with one that does?) You could fancy stitch over the pinked edges (with or without a backing, same stitch or mix it up) and make a crazy quilty tablecloth hybrid thingy. If you put a very thin cotton or wool batting layer in between you could even toss it in the washer so the batting shrinks a little and make it antiquey looking. I have an old Queen/King size cotton quilt that I got for cheap (seriously- like $10) at the Newburgh Caldor (remember them?) going-out-of-business sale that I like to throw on the table sometimes since my tablecloth collection is not large.

  19. I live in Providence and Kreatelier is one of my favorite stores!! I can’t go in there without thinking…hmmm maybe someday I can whip up one of those beautiful quilts or curtains or skirts or handbag…
    So true, we are not worthy.

  20. Have you thought about flat felling the seams – even though this is a seam that is traditionally done on the right side of the fabric, it is interesting when done from the wrong side as well. You could do the final stitch by hand with a beautiful thread. I could see trying an embroidery stitch that looks fancy on the back and completely different on the front. Even though this is a seam that is typically done from the right
    Here is a tutorial for a traditional flat felled seam – http://sewing.about.com/od/techniques/ss/flatfelled.htm
    I love your sense of adventure and can’t wait to see your finished product!

  21. Flannel works good for a thin lining, do shrink it before a few times. Love that hanky quilt, I have a few dozen I have been hoarding for years maybe it’s time to use them. Got a huge handful from Zook’s in Intercourse,PA. great store, no electricity! You always have such creative ideas!

  22. I’m with several other people, back it with a thin muslin. With or without batting. And although that dotty chair is awesome – IMHO yours is still the champion!

  23. THAT CHAIR. OH.OH.OH.

  24. Oooh, I knew from the title that this was going to be a great post!
    Here’s my 2 cents: back it with a nice white muslin, either by a/ right sides together, sewing around, leaving an opening, turning it right side out, you know the drill–so there is no binding. or b/ putting the top and the backing together like a quilt but with no batting and hand sewing a nice narrow binding around.
    Then I would: free motion the whole thing in a lovely pattern and then wash and dry it twice for a wonderful texture and soft, soft, soft!
    Or, if you are too chicken to free motion it, just quilt it a few times each direction in the ditch of the patchwork, just to hold it together nicely.
    And one last thing: I wish your Vera towel collection could get together with my Vera collection and make a baby Vera collection.

  25. A little shot of Lilly Pulitzer pink-and-green blows away any “fusty Victorian vibe”, doesn’t it?

  26. Oh, I love everything in this post! I love your tablecloth quilt and the hanky quilt, too. My grandma was a quilter – I have a couple she made, including one made of scraps of fabric from other projects – I still see some of her blouses when I look at it! She also always had a hanky in purse or pocket. Suddenly, I want to find them (which cousin got them?) and make them into a quilt!

  27. Lovely re-purpose of the tablecloths, Kay!
    A simple suggestion for a fray-free seam would be to construct the piece using a wide zig zag stitch instead of a straight stitch. On my Bernina sewing machine, the stitch width would be about 4 and the length about 2.5. Experiment by making a 4 patch, finish the edges off and throw it into the wash to see what stitch width/length works best. Zig Zag stitching isn’t perfect but it will keep seams from fraying. Wash on a fairly gentle cycle and you should be good to go. Keep us posted.

  28. HANKIE QUILT! Oh my God. Can’t wait to see the finished tablecloth!

  29. I would just serge up those seams….sturdy, flat, doesn’t interrupt the look of the top.

  30. I agree with Emily. I hope that you will post the finished product. Thanks for the great ideas. I am also a tablecloth lover.

  31. Why does Pernilla not have coffee stains all over her tea towels? Or does she not have a coffee-obsessed man (and guests) around?
    I think this might just have turned me to the dark side. I might have to find that box of jeans and shirts I’ve been collecting / stealing from people and Have A Go. And I might have to go to that shop too, it looks amazing. Starting list now of Things To Do Next Time, so I don’t forget in the excitement of the plane journey over.
    All that and a Dotty Chair, too. Be still my beating heart. x x x

  32. it’s like a mini-vacation in a post! and That Pernilla? gracious.
    i used to go nuts over linens in France– cotton and linen bedding. long nightgowns. (i can hear people shuddering from here.) there is no WAY any of our current bedding will stand up to be passed on to future generations. i like the idea of doilies and other kinds of cotton rag being used to make pottery. or paper.

  33. So neat! I’m working on a quilt made of thrift shop shirts. And I have a beginning stash of tea towels. Can do that next. I’m planning on using the quilts at tablecloths. Now I just need to add to my hanky collection. And would you believe I found a stash of fabric sample books at the thrift shop. Not enough time in the day to do it all. Be sure and show off the finished product. Whether you quilt or bind it will be neat.
    tp

  34. I have a box of my grandmothers hankies I’ve been saving for several centuries now. I have never seen a hankie quilt, but had the idea in my mind. Now I have been to the mountaintop. Commissions, you say? Off to google Pernilla…

  35. Kay, I think your next project is to build a sod house in NYC to fill with these beautiful treasures. You’d be so chic and eco-friendly!
    Weighing in on the seam issue….hmmm, I would put a solid back, no filler (if it is a quilt your aiming for). Therefore, could be multi used as tablecloth, picnic/beach “blanket” or summer weight quilt in your sod house.

  36. Yay! Giant dotty chair!

  37. I love hankies! Sometimes I think my husband and I are the only ones who still actually use them for noses. I have some gorgeous ladies’ hankies in my drawer, but not enough to sew together to make anything with. Our girls still buy my husband hankies for gifts and he uses them. Your quilt is absolutely fabulous!!!

  38. Gorgeous post! I like the suggestions to line the quilt in muslin and go batting free. That’s my vote.
    Man this post makes me want to quilt again!

  39. Cute backing fabric, no batting, hand quilt seams in place–your quilting is so pretty–I also like the cross stitch idea, but make ‘em irregular. Fray check those pinked edges if you worry. Rinse repeat enjoy before the summer’s up.
    This is why I have a house full of textiles I can’t throw away. You know that big plastic thing in the Pacific that is supposedly 1000 miles across? It’s living in my basement in fabric form.

  40. HANKY QUILT!!! No wonder I can’t stop buying hankies!

  41. I love a great tablecloth (my husband, unfortunately, is not so inclined)so I collect them and they sit in a cabinet all folded and neat. One day…..
    I don’t sew, but from my limited memories, seam tape seems worse than sewing in ends in knitting in this case, I like the no-batting quilt idea, and it will be another layer of protection for the table.

  42. Oh
    My
    God.
    I can’t even go to Pernilla’s website, I’m dying with the gorgeous right here on your blog. ohmigod.
    I just bought some stuff to do the backs of the seams of something I’m planning (ha! as though I was ever going to find time to make this thing!) that’s like a sheer knit bias tape/seam binding. I found the info on this site:
    http://www.simplicity.com/index.cfm?page=section/classroom/teachingTools_seamFinishes.html
    And I bought the product, Seams Great, at the notions place on 40th st, right across from Grey Line Linen… (pause to flip through mental rolodex…) Steinlauf & Stoller.
    Don’t know if that’s the kinna thing yer lookin fer. Also, if you’re going to quilt it in any way, remember that does a LOT for melting away the seam lines.
    Now, wanna come pick colors for my new blinds with me and help me plan draperies I can plotz over?

  43. Oh my, you are in such trouble!

  44. Oh the dotty chair! *Swoon*

  45. Hi Kay,
    Glad to see you quilting again. I am also a member of the Souleiado fan club. One trip to France involved a soujourn to the factory/block printing museum on what may have been the hottest day in recent memory. But I scored a bag full of scraps. What an inspiration to cut the things up! Not just storing them on the quilts I will make someday shelf.
    A tip for you on the seams and adding some stability. Try a bit of “Flip and Sew” using a lightweight cotton batiste in large blocks. The seams will be more stable, and once quilted, you can wash the whole piece without worry. For the work you have already pieced, “face” those bits with batiste and do a bit of machine quilting to secure the layers along the seamlines prior to finishing the whole top and layering the quilt.
    Can’t wait to see the results!

  46. Kay,
    Everytime you blog about quilt-iness, you make me want to lay down my knitting needles and dust off my sewing machine. And camera.
    Oh, if there were enough time to actually do all that I want to do…
    Thanks for the visuals!

  47. Those are all so gorgeous! Though when I saw Pernilla my first thought was the Permin of Copenhagen cross-stitch kits. Not the same at all!

  48. Flat felt seams? Or— Just sew another line, on the front/top, very closely parallel to the groove made by the seam. If the 5/8′ seam is open on the back/bottom, this will tack down one of the sides of the seam. Or both, if you fold them over to that side.

  49. i admire quilts i do not make quilts
    i do like mine with another pattern
    on the back even as a table cloth
    a little extra padding would help
    the hanky baby quilts are adorable

  50. This stuff is the greatest! (even the funky chair that looks soooooo low that you could never stand up from it, especially if you were born before the year 1955–or so.)
    LoveDiane
    :):):):):)

  51. I’m so with you on this and can’t wait to see more.

  52. Methinks there is a little Swedish in you. Way cool shop in Providence.
    A seamstress long before a knitter, this is what I would do:
    Buy some NICE linen. (B&J Fabrics)
    Cut strips as wide and long as your inserts, plus seam allowances on all sides
    Fold and press short ends.
    Sew the linen strip lengthwise right on top of your existing seam and to the right(three thicknesses now).
    Flip the new linen strip over the seam you just made and all your “pinked” seams to other long side seam on tablecloth.
    Iron like hell.
    Now fold under the other raw, long edge and press.
    Slip stitch long edge in place, and same for ends.
    To finish, topstich by hand or machine to enclosed all previous seams between the layers.
    Should be purdy!

  53. i still can not catch my breath after seeing that chair.

  54. I would suggest a heavy linen to back it. just put together right sides facing, sew, flip, use a pretty stitch to finish edges. The linen will keep the tablecloth from sliding so much.

  55. LOVE this post. You have inspired me! And your timing is perfect.
    I just retired last month and have started cleaning out closets. OK…just one closet but it’s my PROJECT closet. Ugh. My dining room table (an antique drafting table…so it’s tall and large) is covered with piles of fabrics of old jeans, t-shirts (because your first book suggested using old t-shirts for quilts), sweatshirts, cross-stich pieces, vintages cloths, linen…on and on the list goes of stuff collected over the years. Now I’m ready to cancel lunch plans, start cutting and designing. Maybe I should design first, then cut — but that seems so safe.
    I have enough material for quilts for all three grandchildren (and then some probably). Thank you for wonderful inspirations! Great way to start my Monday.

  56. I don’t understand your Sunday brunch linoleum cloth directions.
    What do I do, on the even numbered rows?
    Please help!!
    I see it says to purl the knits, and knit the purls, I guess, but, is that right? And, purl the knit sts at the beg and end of each row?
    Sry, I just don’t know what to do on even numbered rows.