Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

Featured Project – The Apothecary Kitchen

For this new Featured Project, stitcher Bonnie has gone above and beyond the call of duty for her daughter and created a whole set of stunning accessories for a slightly witchy, apothecary themed kitchen!

What started out as a simple sachet soon turned into a roman shade, and then a whole set of apothecary towels that helped transform this kitchen into a space fit for cooking up some grand mischief.

Bonnie joins us today to talk about the inspiration behind the kitchen and how the whole thing came together…

Talk about what inspired this. How did the idea for this kitchen get started?

The kitchen belongs to my daughter, who is Velma Nightshade, hostess of the pagan podcast WitchesBrewHaHa. That fact is only one part of the inspiration. For her, the kitchen began at a Hallmark store at Halloween some years ago when they had a selection of apothecary jars listing various sinister contents and a spider infused covered apothecary glass candle. It was a great and unfortunately unique inspiration on their part.

Since then she has added large glass canisters of various shapes in place of traditional kitchen canisters. Her love of the old, eclectic, and slightly witchy is evident and quite suitable. (The black stemware was from a friend’s failed marriage, the stained glass witch, from a trip to Salem, MA. and several items were found in an antique store she frequents looking for inspiration.)

What make you choose the Apothecary series?

When she came to visit in May last year, I had only shortly before discovered your site through a mention on Embroidery Library. We took a look and were so excited that the wish list I had started became a must have list. She fell in love with the Paris items, since that has been one of her dream destinations for years, and the Nightshade connection became a requirement. That led to the Apothecary set, and we were off. It seemed only appropriate since the kitchen was already headed in that direction.

Which designs did you use? How long did it all take?

I had already made the Raven’s Claw Tea as a towel, but I purchased the original six Apothecary designs in May and went on a cyber hunt for towels to embroider. I finally gave up on that, but I did not buy the fabric until mid September. I used three yards of Kona Cotton in ivory from Hancock Fabrics for the towels, and Baby Lock Ellageo for the embroidery and a Baby Lock Grace for the sewing and leafy hem design.

The designs I started with were from the small Apothecary Design Pack. I had finished these six by Christmas when my daughter came to visit. By then I had purchased the two new small sized Apothecary designs, Witch Hazel and Poison which came out in October, along with Dark Elegance Border and Cobweb Corner and the largest Apothecary Sign. I bought more fabric for the window valence to get the length needed, since the width was too short.

I work full time, make crafts and edit the monthly newsletter for Dogwood Crafters in Dillsboro, NC, and also made a pillow for my grandson and granddaughter for Christmas, so my time for this project was intermittent. I shipped the entire set in mid-March, which for me was amazing! I think the decision making took the longest, since we were not both in the same state. Several fabric samples and photos of the layout of the valence went back and forth.

Talk about all the towels on the cabinets. How are they attached?

Once Velma received the set, she did not want to use them for fear of possibly messing them up. She could not figure out how to display all eight towels at once with only one oven handle. I was delighted with the cabinet door solution. All of the towels are the same finished size: 12 ¾ X 23 ¾ (pre-washed), and they are just folded in different ways and then attached using loops of strong tape with the sticky side out.

The loop is made around the top fold around the back of the towel, which, since the sticky side is facing the front on this side, supports the fold and weight and holds down the front a bit, and then the sticky side continues around the back facing the cabinet door. The two towels above the microwave are done the same way, but they are secured at the top and then under the embroidery to mimic the shape of the cabinet door. The Witch Hazel label to the right of the microwave is simply folded to be narrower, again to mimic the shape of the door. This one, since it is bulkier because of the narrowness, is also secured at the very bottom. The Apothecary sign above the Roman shade is tacked along the top to the support for the actual shade.

What did you put on your roman shade, including  all the fun stuff hanging down from it?

Before starting the Apothecary towels, I had made her the Madame Nightshade’s Beauty Emporium Bag, which is in her bathroom. I made the smaller size as a surprise for her for Christmas, which is the one on her roman shade. The Antique Key I made in many copies for myself, for her, and for her friends. I put two side by side in the hoop to reduce “travel” time. The key specifically was put up as a representation of security and safety in the house.

There are several other items collected over the years, including a sign on which Velma wrote out a simple meal blessing, a corn dolly made during an Autumn Equinox celebration several years ago, a little silver piggy bank ornament to represent prosperity, a pentacle pendant as a sign of her spiritual path, a Ganesha charm – the elephant-headed Hindu god of removing obstacles (put up in an attempt to help keep Velma’s cats from being underfoot in the kitchen) and several other witchy decorations. Things are added to the shade frequently and this is the thing that changes in the kitchen most consistently.

Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying a similar project?

I did have some difficulty getting the fabric hooped tightly enough that the designs did not pull (a common problem I have.) The large Apothecary sign gave me trouble, so I cut it out like a patch and then appliquéd it onto the valance fabric once the other designs were finished. I might suggest that solution for any of the larger sizes of these designs, since the edges are so well finished that they do not come loose when cut out.

Had we planned to put the individual designs onto cabinet doors, I would have cut and sewn the sizes accordingly. However, if she ever wants to change their use, she has a matched set of towels. A more permanent attachment process might happen in the future, but without harming the door itself, the strong tape seems to be the best solution at this point.

Any comments on your new apothecary kitchen from visitors?

Since it is such a recent addition, very few people have seen it. The entire house has a rather witchy esthetic, so the kitchen fits in well with its surroundings. Most comments have been about how the towels look like they belong on the cabinets and how they fill out the apothecary feel of the kitchen.

What’s your next project going to be?

The Tarot cards are waiting for a good deal of ambition and perhaps retirement in a year or so. In the mean time, probably something from Celtic Majesty or maybe the Crazy Cat Lady head the list. Maybe I’ll try sewing out Pi in a variegated color thread. There are so many wonderfully fun designs that I will keep myself plenty busy and my daughters and grandchildren well supplied.

I just might make something for myself next….

Thanks so much for sharing Bonnie! You’re a fantastic mum for helping your daughter create such a cool kitchen, and the results really speak for themselves. That’s a whole lot of stitching in one place, and it’s so great to see the designs come together like that. I do also hope you get time to stitch some stuff for yourself, I’m sure it will be equally amazing.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Reclaimed Needlework of Louise Saxton

I’ve seen a growing number of fiber artists out there utilizing vintage needlework into their art, (like artist Frederique Morrel mentioned previously) and I think the results are just so stunning. Using all reclaimed work seems to lend itself to a rich tapestry you don’t often otherwise see.

Artist Louise Saxton uses gloriously saturated needlworks to stitch together these amazingly bright and bold art piece inspired by nature. You can see more of her work over on the NAVA gallery, or peek at it in person if you’re lucky enough to be in Australia at the Heide gallery.

hat tip to Craft

UT Tutorial – Parisian Postcard Pillow

The beauty of the new Parisian Love Letter designs is that they’re perfectly suited for mixing, mingling, and overlapping. Try stitching your own love letter with this postcard pillow tutorial! Embroidered on natural linen, it’ll make a romantic accent to any room…



Check out the tutorial and create your own lovely postcard pillow!

Featured Project – Apothecary Pillows

Just when you think you’ve thought of everything a design could do, you guys come along and take it in a wonderfully bonkers new direction. We mentioned when we released our Apothecary designs that you could remove the background fill to make them light stitching for pillows. What we never imagined is just what kind of pillows those would turn out to be!

This week’s featured project comes from Allegra, who took our designs and made them into these amazing giant bottle pillows! Neat, all your snake oil remedies now come in conveniently huggable form. Allegra tells us a little about what sparked this cool incarnation, and what went into making them…

This is such a cool incarnation of the designs! What brought you to this idea?

I not sure I could tell you where the idea came from! I have terrible problems getting to sleep, and quite frequently spend hours lying awake in the darkness. So I try and think of fun ideas to keep my brain occupied.

I’ve been really into steampunk for ages now, and one day just before Christmas I had been browsing your lovely steampunky, Victorian-y designs. I’d seen the apothecary labels and been really impressed with them, so when I was lying awake that night I started thinking about what I could stitch them onto. Somewhere in there, the idea of making cushions shaped like medicine bottles jumped out of the night and into my brain, and I decided it had to be done!

Talk us through all the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

I decided to use the designs for Love Potion, Ether, Tonic, Miracle Cure, Elixir and Liniment because they were the ones that I thought looked most like actual bottle labels. I’m not sure how long they took all together.

With each of them I cut large, square pieces of fabric out of old bedsheets (it’s all about upcycling!) and backed them with lots and lots of stabiliser. Then I just let the machine do its thing! It took maybe an hour or two to stitch out each design. I didn’t want the embroidery to be too ‘heavy’, so I left out the background colours and just stitched the black parts.

After that was done, I’d move on to worrying about the shapes of the cushions themselves 🙂

Did you make up the pillow shapes on your own? How did those come together?

I started by looking at lots and lots of pictures of actual Victorian medicine bottles. I had already decided that I wanted to do six different designs, so I looked at pictures and doodled on the back of an envelope until I had six distinctive shapes.

I’m really not the kind of person that tries to make everything absolutely perfect, so when the designs were stitched out I just laid the fabric squares out on the floor and drew the bottle shapes around the embroideries with a pencil. Once I’d cut them out, I traced the shapes onto pattern-making card and used those as templates to cut out the back pieces (and to make more bottles!).

Then it was just a matter of sewing the back and front together around most of the way, stuffing them full of fluffy stuff and closing them up by hand.


Any challenges along the way? What advice would you give someone trying a similar project?

The stuffing was probably the biggest problem. I knew I wanted to use recycled toy stuffing, and it took me a little while to find somewhere that I could get it.

And stuffing the cushions took -way- longer than I thought it would do—mainly because I’d chosen to leave the tops of the bottles open, and so all of the stuffing had to be pushed through the narrow ‘necks’ of the bottles. The Sarah Connor Chronicles was very useful in stopping me from going out of my mind while I was doing that!

Still, I think it was probably the best way to do it. If I’d left the bottoms open, I would have spent the rest of my life fighting with fluffy white stuffing to get them closed.

As for advice, I’d say just go for it.

Seriously, I just sort of learn on my feet by experimenting and making mistakes. Most of the time I only have a vague idea of where I’m going, and just wait to see how it turns out!

Have you shown anyone your beautiful pillows and all that embroidery? What are the reactions?

Everyone that’s seen them so far has been really nice about them—but then, most of the people I know are used to being presented with strange, Victorian embroideries and having me look at them with wide, expectant eyes.

I’m really fascinated by all things alchemy, and I wanted to get something of that fascination across in these strange bottle-cushions. That was the most important thing for me while I was working on them and photographing them. And, from the feedback I’ve had so far, I think I managed to get a little bit of the wonder of science-meeting-magic across, so I’m happy!

What are your plans for your beautiful apothecary pillows?

Well, these ones are currently for sale in my Etsy store, and I’ll be making more like them as and when I can find more white/cream colored fabric (old bedsheets from charity shops are the best!).

I also have some different colored sheets, and plans to make brown and green-coloured bottles. I just need to figure out how to make the designs really visible on darker-colored fabric. At the moment, I’m thinking that I’ll do it either by including the background colors in the designs, stitching the text  in white or cream, or trying to improvise some kind of appliqué work-around.

What’s your next project going to be?

I’m not sure just yet! I do a lot of my own embroidery designs—many of which are based on early hot air balloons. I find them utterly beautiful. They really capture the spirit of wonder that was around at the beginning of the Romantic Age. And, because I’m really into steampunk, I’m always looking for ways to combine things like that with more modern and futuristic elements.

One of the ideas I’m knocking around at the moment is to upcycle duvet covers and pillow cases wholesale instead of just cutting them up. I’ve been looking at some of the photographs of nebulas taken by the Hubble telescope, and wondering if it’s possible to dye duvet covers in some of those shifting, wonderful colors. If it works, then I may stitch a simple, sketch-like hot air balloon or two onto it–drifting through the stars.

This may well end in a tangled knot of embroidery thread and purple and blue dye all over my kitchen floor, but you never know until you try, right?

Seriously, would these not be the very best things you could receive when you’re feeling under the weather? Just snuggle with some tonic and feel all better. Thanks Allegra for thinking up such an beautifully simple idea that none of the rest of us thought of, and for your awesomely moody photos. Can’t wait to see what your next brainwave will bring!

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

Vintage needlework sculptures

I am absolutley smitten with the husband and wife team of Frederique Morrel, who rescue vintage needlework and turn them into these amazing pieces of art.

From the artists-

‘Our products have been carefully re-made using vintage needlework saved from oblivion in the interest of the redemption of the painstaking work involved in their original creation. When wandering around markets or garage sales we’re often very saddened to see discarded embroidery. ‘

You can see much much more over on their website, including a pretty cool behind the scenes on how they made one of their creations.

via Pinterest

Our First Alphabet & Release Sale

A fun new announcement today, on a kind of design series we’ve wanted to do for awhile…


That’s right ladies and gents, step right up (or you know, stay seated at your computer) and grab the first of what is sure to be many alphabets, the Cirque Alphabet.

As part of celebrating the release of this fun new type of design, the Cirque Alphabet will be on SALE for a limited time until Sept 25th. Click here to check it out!

Why the wait, you ask? Well, we wanted to make sure these designs were available to purchase as a pack for your stitching pleasure. No fun trying to buy all of them one at a time, right? Now that packs are here there’s nothing in the way of embroidered typographic bliss.

So, you might be wondering, how do you use these fabulous new stitches of lettering awesomeness? Ah ha, we had predicted just such a question (we’re clever that way), and lucky for you we’ve put together a slick little tutorial all on how to lay out and stitch your lettered designs with ease.

The first thing you should know up front is that these designs do not act like a “font” file that sometimes comes installed on some machines. You still treat them like any other design. Luckily, it’s super easy to lay them out and have them stitching in no time.

Create fabulous text-only designs, add names and words to others, or stitch big fun letters on pillows, towels and the like. It’s the first of many to come, and we hope you like them!

Featured Project – Victorian Capelets

The last warm days of summer are still hanging on here in Minnesota, but at nights you can feel the chill of autumn start to roll in.

Personally, autumn is my favorite season … the time of warm apple cider, boots, and fabulous layers. That’s why I thought it would be a great time to share something perfect for wrapping around yourself on a chill autumn evening, the capelet creations of Luci from DuhBe.

Luci joins us today to talk a little about the spark that started her upcycled Victorian creations, and the embroidery embellishments that go with them…

cherry chocolate bunny crop jacket

I just love that these are capelets, something you really don’t see much of these days. What inspired you to make these?

I had found this really pretty skirt, but it was too small for me. One day I threw the skirt over the shoulders of my dress form, and it occurred to me I could upcycle that skirt into a neo-victorian styled capelet.

I ended up putting that first one in my Etsy shop and it was featured in one of their emails which created demand for more capelets – so I made more! They are great for keeping the chill off your shoulders, and they are a good canvas for embroidery.

Blue & brown rabbit capelet

What made you choose the designs you did?

I love the Alice in Wonderland designs and for a while I was putting them on everything! So it just made sense to use those on the steampunk or neo-Victorian styled capelets I was making.

Did you make up the pattern yourself, or follow one?

My capelets are either upcyled skirts, or I make them from my own patterns similar to a-line or circle skirts. But I believe some of the big pattern companies have capelet patterns in their formal wear category as well.

Sold - Pink,blue & brown rabbit capelet

How long does one of your creations take you? Any interesting challenges along the way?

It usually takes 2-4 hours depending on how many embellishments I add. The biggest challenge with converting a skirt to a capelet is getting the shoulders to lie flat. If you remove the waistband and add a dart at each shoulder, you can fix that. Then create a new neckline with bias tapes or ribbon, or just hem it and add pretty top stitching.


Tell us a bit about those awesome fabrics you chose…

Many of the fabrics I use are upcycled from thrifted garments. You can get expensive suiting fabrics really cheap that way!

I also love the linen look, and have used Osnaburg muslin for some of the capelets because it has a vintage look that goes well with embellishments and embroidery.

Pink & brown cat capelet

Any advice for people looking to tackle a similar project?

Capelets are very easy to make – just like skirts. If you add embroidery, my tip is to embroider on separate fabric and then add the design as a patch, along with other scraps of fabric for a cluster effect. You get a lot of design pop for very little money that way. Look for skirts with pretty details like a fancy hemline, so you get all that frouf-y stuff with no work on your part!

Thanks Luci for sharing these amazing creations and adding a little more inspiration to the upcycling trend. I know I’m now secretly wishing fall would hurry up and get here so I can warm my hands on a cup of cider and go thrifting for skirts!

Do you want to be a featured project on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!