Memory Quit from Men’s Shirts

Quilt from Men’s Shirts

full side 230-IMG_3332

This is a memory quit from 12 men’s dress shirts.

The man who commissioned this memory quilt requested that I create a Queen sized quilt from his shirts He wanted a contemporary style pieced quilt and even sent me a “rough concept” painting to give me an idea of what he wanted. He didn’t want a memory quilt that had collars, cuffs, etc. I was to only use the fabric from his shirts.





I enjoy corresponding and collaborating with my customers and Aaron and I exchanged quite a few emails about his quilt. We discussed the color options (given the limited palette of blue and brown with a single shirt with orange in it.)

Memory quilt with Kaffee Fassett backing

Aaron wanted the quilting done on the top with an orange thread.  He chose a Kaffee Fassett fabric for the back that had stripes of different widths on a brown background. I used a dark brown thread in the bobbin. I even sent him ideas for the quilting design so he could give me an idea of what he liked. I ended up doing the quilting in a pattern of squares and rectangles that complimented the overall design.


IMG_3355I did  lot of different styles of piecing—some straight edge, some softly curved. I did strip piecing, cut the blocks of strips and switched them around to create new blocks. I cut right through blocks and inserted strips in crisscrossed patterns. I did some log-cabin style piecing, some crazy piecing, some nine-patch type piecing. This was a big exercise in piecing with a very contemporary twist.


Limits Push Creativity

62-IMG_3365One of the things I enjoyed most was the challenge of the limited palette. Having boundaries/limits is a great way to push yourself creatively. It seems counter-intuitive to say limits are creatively freeing, but it’s true.

Designing a quilt from someone’s clothing is an exercise in designing with limits. It’s really so much easier to go the quilt shop or dig through a stash and pick out just the right pieces of fabric—and go back and get more if things get challenging. With a memory quilt, I can’t do that. My boundaries are to use whatever I am given and make the most of it.

Aaron was concerned that there wasn’t enough variety of mediums and darks. Well, one thing I did was use the reverse side of some of the fabrics. One of the blues was woven so that the right side was a very pale blue while the wrong side was a rich medium hue. Both of the brown striped fabrics looked much darker on the reverse sides (the stripes were much duller on that side) so I could use those wrong sides as an almost-black. I think from a distance you can’t really tell how few fabrics there are in this quilt!




Just for fun I took a photo of what was left of the shirts, backing and batting when I was all finished. This is it. I think I did pretty well using up my materials!








Easy NO-SEW Vintage Chair Re-Upholstery (tutorial)

Easy NO-SEW Chair Re-Upholstery


We are remodeling and staging our previous home for sale, in the hopes that literal “sweat equity” will get it sold quickly, once we put it on the market. The staging part is the process I’m enjoying and will share some of my ideas here.

I found a woman who is Certified in Home Staging and Design. Tracy Evans was willing to do a consultation by mail to help me with some stumbling blocks. Her advice eased our anxiety about some of our choices and was SO reasonably priced—-we’re watching every penny and this was definitely well-worth it!

So—on to one of my first projects!

Chair Re-Upholstery With A Glue Gun

By “with a glue gun” I mean “with ONLY a glue gun” and scissors!

I’ve re-upholstered chairs this way before and they turned out lovely. And they were perfectly fine to use—-though I might not use this method on heavily used furniture.

The Chair:

I found a great vintage chair at an estate sale (the “before” picture) and I bought 1 1/2 yards of printed burlap at the fabric store. I also bought a can of semi-gloss black spray paint. Before working on upholstery, I sprayed the rattan and wood arms and sides of the chair. I didn’t mask anything off, as it would all be covered by new fabric. I also spray painted the lower front section of the chair. Yes, I spray painted the fabric. It’s OK. Really.




Glue Gun Upholstery

(NOTE: Be sure to use high-temp hot glue, not the easy-on-your-fingers low-temp stuff. It’s not strong enough to hold the fabric)

With my fabric spread across the back of the chair, I pressed the fabric down into the sides tightly. Pressing the fabric in made a crease I could use as a marker, but you can also stick a pencil down in the crease to mark the fabric. I cut a rectangle as marked,  ADDING a couple of inches on each side, top and bottom.

I started by gluing the upper edge of my fabric to the back side of the chair, making sure I had the piece centered. (The back will be covered with another piece of fabric (black) and where the edges meet, I will glue black upholstery trim.)



I pressed the fabric deeply into the sides, alternating sides, as I worked my way down to be sure I had the fabric smooth and straight. Then I went back and, working a section at a time, pulled the fabric out, spread open the area where the chair meets the cushion and laid in a stripe of hot glue, then quickly replaced the fabric, pressing it in deeply.

A butter knife or other smooth, rounded object can be used to press in the fabric if your fingers are tender. I’ve got tough “old lady in the kitchen” fingers so I generally just use my hands.





Since the back cushion is visible through the sides, I double-checked as I went to make sure I was tucking my fabric in deep enough.

It’s amazing how well the hot glue holds!





Getting the fabric around the wooden edges was a little trickier, as I couldn’t leave any raw edges. I carefully pushed the fabric down in where I could,



then snipped a bit at a time til I could fold under the edge where it met the wood. I applied the glue to the chair, then carefully folded my fabric under and pressed it into the glued edge.


I got excited with my progress and neglected to take many photos of the seat cushion upholstery, but here’s what I did:

First I cut a strip that went all the way around the side of the cushion, with about 4″ extra on each side, and a couple of inches to fold under on one end. Starting at the back, I glued this strip along the edges to the seat cushion, gluing just under the piping and again above the piping on the seat edges. When I got back around to my starting point, I carefully folded under the end and glued it in place.

For the top of the seat, I rough-cut a square to more-than-cover the seat. Starting at the center front, I began folding under a couple of inches and gluing it to the seat. I made fine lines of glue, very close to where my folded edge would be so as to hold the edge close. I worked a bit on one side and the the other so I wouldn’t pull the fabric too far to one side as I worked. I also trimmed the excess fabric as I went so I only folded under a couple of inches—that way it wouldn’t be too bulky.

NO SEW vintage chair

Being as how this is quick and (relatively) easy, I did not cover the bottom of the seat cushion. The side edges are glued down well under the edge—no one will ever know (well, except for you, of course!)

FINISHING: I covered the back of the chair with some black fabric. I added a burlap ribbon trim around the upper seam on the seat as well as across the upper back edge and down the sides. A little trim hides a multitude of sins!


I used this technique on 2 wing-back chairs some years ago. I used bright red trim and I thought the chairs were really cute. (I used a staple gun on these chairs, but the glue gun worked fine for my current project.)

1-Timber Ridge House016

Discover More of My Work In Altered Couture!

This website has been devoted (mostly) to my quilted works. However, there are so many more ways I love to create with fabric!

The latest issue of Altered Couture has 2 articles  I wrote about altering ready-to-wear garments with vintage barkcloth.



Sewing with vintage textiles is something I’ve been doing for years and find very satisfying, creatively speaking. Finding beautiful or funky materials from the past isn’t too hard—but what to do with them is a challenge, and one that I enjoy!

Stampington Press publishes numerous magazines for all types of creative artists with inspiration galore. Many articles provide instructions for techniques shown in the spectacular photography. My articles in this issue of Altered Couture both include descriptions of how I created these garments.

If you’d like to purchase this magazine or others from Stampington, you may order directly, subscribe or find them at a retail location near you.

Keep watching……I’ve got more articles in this and other Stampington magazines coming soon!


 I’m pleased to announce that I will now be selling my original patterns and design tutorials! 

 The debut of this aspect of my business features this purse pattern:

Dale” is a medium sized purse pattern with 2 inside pockets and designed to feature a belt, scarf or tie.

Order the PDF Pattern HERE!



The "Dale" Handbag

The “Dale” Handbag

“Dale” is an original  purse pattern with pockets and belt from Amy Cavaness Designs. This medium sized purse is fully lined and has 2 inside pockets: a patch pocket and a zippered pocket. The straps form belt loops on the bag, through which you may run a belt, a scarf, or some other fabric tie.

I designed the purse straps to be the perfect length so the bag “tucks in” at my waist and the straps don’t fall off my shoulders.

This pattern originated with my drawer full of pretty belts that fit before, well, 4 babies and many years changed my waistline! I thought how fun it would be to have a bag that could wear my belts for me. A 25″ belt fits perfectly as-is, but I alter other belts to fit.

My original bag was made in a cute “Roy Rogers & Dale Evans” fabric (with red faux-tooled-leather straps) thus the name, “Dale”

Vintage Barkcloth Bag in Belle Armoire


This purse can be made in 2 styles: 

Rounded bottom
(right)Squared bottom (seen above)   

Both styles are included in the pattern and directions.




Clear, step-by-step instructions are fully illustrated with photographs from the construction of the brown & orange purse shown above.


This pattern has a couple of great features, useful for ANY purse you might make:

an inside zippered pocket and a reinforced bottom panel. 

Inside zippered pocket

I have bought many patterns for handbags, none of which tell how to make an inside zippered pocket. I don’t know why not–if you can sew a rectangle, you can make this pocket! Once I learned how to do this, I put a zippered pocket inside ALL my bags, and will probably put them in jackets, too. (And exposed zippers are all the rage in everything from clothing to accessories right now!)


The “Dale” handbag pattern is a PDF download which will be sent to your email address after purchase.

To purchase this pattern, go HERE to my Artfire Shop where you can pay via Paypal or Amazon. The pattern and instructions print out on 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper.

My love-affair with vintage barkloth and this style bag has been going on for many years, as evidenced by these variations of Dale.

IMG_0777-001 Barkcloth Belted Purse






Peacock Feather Bag






Halloween Purse

Vintage Barkloth bag



This is an option for a future handbag. This is my favorite type of print–a rural/scenic design featuring farmland, which is what I’m surrounded by here in central Illinois.


This red suede belt is one I’ve been hoping to use with this pattern. I think it really makes the red barns pop! I think this will be cute for spring with a pale gray lining.




I LOVE this belt! I LOVE tooled leather (even faux tooled leather!)

This combination is going to make a great purse (as the belt isn’t going around my waist anytime soon!) I might make the lining from some old blue jeans….

And speaking of old jeans–I hope to make a Dale out of upcycled denim and use some of my old scarves on it. 


Ruffled Zipper Bag/Clutch

 Up next: my “Cute ‘n Sassy” ruffled zipper bag!

(HINT: It’s already available in my Artfire shop HERE!!!!)

My Purses in Belle Armoire

 I’m thrilled that 2 purses I created are in the current issue (Feb 1, 2013) of Belle Armoire magazine!!!!


This is a beautiful publication from Stampington Press (who publishes a large number of magazines, including Altered Couture and Where Women Create.)

The magazine issued a challenge for “Eco Purses,” which were made from upcycled or recycled materials. Well, that’s exactly what I love to do! I create clothing and accessories from all kinds of “green” sources: vintage textiles, thrift store bargains, yard sale finds, and even the back of my closet (the cute Western belt on the green bag is one such find!)

I designed this purse specifically to feature belts or scarves. The handles create belt loops that hold a belt with a great buckle or sash from an old dress or even a scarf. I’ve loved carrying bags from this pattern—they’re not too big and tuck nicely under my arm. I have trouble with purse handles falling off my shoulders, but this one stays put!

I’m readying this pattern for sale here on my website. Drawing out a pattern for myself and creating a pattern and instructions for publication are very different! I’m adding photos to all of the step-by-step instructions to make it as clear as possible. It’s a lot of work and I’m trying to get it done as quickly as possible.

Creating With Vintage Tablecloths

Sewing with vintage table linens is such fun! Unique prints and materials. Lace, embroidery, crochet trim, fun prints—-so many options!

Tops and jackets are just about my favorites to sew from tablecloths. I created a 50’s-style jacket from  a funky vintage (1940’s?) tablecloth that featured dozing Mexicans, donkeys with flowered hats, etc–a popular theme from that era. I laid out the jacket front on the corners and had the border design continue around the back. I used a complementary apple green for the sleeves and collar. A couple of scraps from the edge trim design looked pretty cute on the sleeves and tied everything together. I stacked black and white vintage buttons for a bold closure,




Another fun top I designed was made with 2 different tablecloths. One was a big floral in pinks and reds, the other was an embroidered tablecloth with a cross-stitched center section. I created the blouse  from the floral cloth and used the cross-stitched circle to create a flowing collar. In lieu of a facing, I bound the top edge with a strip of linen, which I then crimped and pleated for a unique look. I covered big buttons with floral scraps for the front closure.


I’ve created a few tops from an Indygo Junction pattern that is an easy shape and calls for big blocks of mixed textiles. Vintage barkcloth and tablecloths have been favorite materials for these tops. The front tab always looks great with big, funky vintage buttons. I inherited some table linens with beautiful cutwork embroidery and crocheted lace. I’ve experimented with dying some of these and this first top used sections of tablecloth that I tea-dyed. The upper sections are from vintage barkcloth curtains.




The next top is a mix of vintage textiles and the top is large Jacquard napkins I dyed a soft blue-green. Again, the balance of the top is from vintage barkcloth and other similar textiles. See the cute stacked buttons on the sleeve?



This vest also uses sections of Mom’s table linens which I dyed a soft pinkish-brown. The other side of the vest is, again, vintage barkcloth. The back makes this a trifecta of recycling! It’s cut from a brown denim dress I bought at Goodwill, originally just for the buttons. The flat-felled seams appear like princess seams, though the piece is actually cut in one piece on the fold.



Aprons have been a fun and easy way to recycle vintage tablecloths. Jeans and denim overalls make great foundations for sturdy, useful aprons.

Here I used some overalls to create a bib apron, adding a ruffle along the bottom from a tablecloth. This is a great way to make use of a tablecloth that has a few stains in the center “eating area”. The borders of the tablecloths hung, for the most part, off the edge of the table, so they didn’t get as soiled as the center areas.




This next bib-style apron was fashioned entirely from a single tablecloth and some solid pink fabric I had in my stash.








And here’s another darling apron made from a tablecloth printed with big red geraniums and Kelly green leaves. My neighbor dances around her kitchen in this beauty!

Next is a photo of Yours Truly wearing my dress made from a large floral tablecloth. I needed something cool to wear for the hot outdoor summer markets and this dress really fit the bill. I created a matching apron from a pair of red jeans and the dress sash went right through the belt loops!

And how cute is this little girl’s dress??? One of my favorite creations! The little button-on apron is the inspiration for this whole piece. It’s actually a napkin from a 1950’s table linens set. (My first thought was “Eeww! Who wants to eat on linens that color?!”  But that brown and yellow-green are hot colors once again these days and I had the brown fabric in my stash of cotton prints. The brown and white plaid is a bit of fabric I had left from high school!! (We’re talking 1970’s—peasant top!) I’ve had many moves since those days, but some things just don’t get tossed for another move—like FABRIC!!! (See, boys and girls, this is how you end up with “vintage” textiles!)




Inspiration Card Deck Tutorial (Playing Cards Covered With Fabric)

Last spring I participated in an inspiration card deck swap coordinated by Jessica Brogan. All the participants (over 100, I believe) took a pack of playing cards and created 52 unique art cards with inspirational sayings on them. These were mailed off to Jess, who threw them all in a big pile (wink, wink) and created decks of 52 different cards to send back to the participants. So what we received were great decks of art and inspiration, with a new card for each week.

It’s been such fun to see the variety of styles of art. As fart as I know, I was the only person to make mine with fabric (hey–I’m a fabric artist! What else am I gonna use???) Jess has asked me to create a tutorial for how I made mine and I must admit I did quite a bit of research before I began and couldn’t find much on how to do this project with fabric. There are tutorials on creating postcard sized ATC’s, but that’s not really what we’re doing here. My process is easy and fun and a great way to use scraps and play with fabrics and trims. I especially enjoyed the small scale, which allowed me the opportunity to experiment without a big investment in time, materials or mental commitment. So, this is PLAY time!


Instructions for Creating Fabric-Covered

Inspiration Cards

    • Playing Cards  This is a good way to use up incomplete decks of cards (yes, now there’s ANOTHER thing to hang on to because you might need it!)
    • Heat ‘n Bond  You can get a package of this stuff at craft stores, fabric stores, Walmart, etc. I bought the “Lite” kind, but you can get the regular stuff in the red package as well. (“Lite” is something you can sew through, but we’re not sewing, so it just doesn’t matter.)
    • Fabrics, trims…..whatever you want to play with. I’ve used some of my fabric-painting experiments on these cards. Keep in mind with the trims that these cards should be quite flat, so don’t use bulky buttons or 3 dimensional objects.
    • Paints, inks, etc. The accenting and embellishing is creative fun–have at it! Some suggestions are included later.
    • Inspirational phrases printed on paper, cut out
    • Glue. I use a standard craft glue which I water down a bit because it spreads easier. I pour a little in a dish or lid and paint it on with a paint brush. For this project even Elmer’s is fine. I don’t recommend glue sticks because I’m gluing laces and trims that I think the liquid stuff will work better with.
    • Scissors….nice sharp scissors for cutting fabric neatly. Do not, however, use your good fabric scissors because you will be cutting through paper which dulls scissors. I’ve got some little pointy Fiscars that I love. If you fabric frays when you cut it, your scissors are too dull.
    • Iron. The Heat ‘n Bond says to set the iron to Medium, no steam. 


    • You’ll notice the Heat ‘n Bond has a shiny side and a paper side. Lay out a set of 8-10 cards on the H’nB and mark the borders, then cut out that piece.
    • Lay the cards on the shiny side of the H’nB and cover with a piece of paper or parchment to keep from getting glue on your iron.
    • Press firmly, then let cool. 
    • Now you can cut a piece a piece of H’nB to apply fusible
      to the other side of the card, depending on what you plan to do with the back.



  • If you fold the cooled bonded cards, you can easily cut them apart. After you cut them, remove the backing paper. If the thin layer of bonding material starts to peel off, you can start peeling from a different place. If you have trouble with larger areas, the glue hasn’t bonded properly and you need to give it another bit of heat from the iron.


Now your cards are read to add fabrics, embellishments and Inspiration!



Card Fronts

For my first card, I traced the shape on the back of my fabric and cut it out on the lines.


Then back to the iron—lay the card with the bonded side up. Position the fabric piece on top of the card, then cover with pressing sheet. Press firmly for 5-10 seconds. Again, let this cool before handling (it’s hot!)


If you want to “test” a piece of fabric to see how it looks, just fold the fabric around the card to see where you prefer to position it.

As an alternative to the “trace and cut” instructions, position your card with the glue side against the wrong side of your fabric, right where you want it, and iron first, then cut out around the card.


Here are 3 of my cards, covered. Time for words of inspiration!



With the paint brush, spread a thin layer of glue on the back of your cut-out phrase. Position on the fabric-covered card and smooth out. I use an old credit card to smooth out any bumps or bubbles.

At this point you can add whatever embellishments seem appropriate. Here I added some trim I’d previously painted green with ink. I painted the back side with my craft glue, then placed in position to dry.



On my other card, I placed a piece of painted trim. Next I dug out my shimmery ink and added a few dabs and swirls.



Something I liked on my first deck was coloring the text strips. The bright white paper sometimes seems too bright, so I tried lightly coloring it to blend in better. On some I just lightly colored with a colored pencil. Keep in mind that markers, being wet, may smear the printer ink on your phrases.

Here I used a brown ink pad and a little dauber to “age” the paper. I think it blends nicely with the vintage-looking fabric and lace.


Card Backs

You can cover the backs of your card with fabric using the same instructions as before. Then you can glue a piece of paper with your info or, as I did here, just write on the fabric with a permanent pen or marker.

Another option is to glue a business card to the back. It’s nice that a standard business card fits almost perfectly on the back. Here I fused fabric first, then used craft glue to attach my business card to the back. In the future, I may just glue my business card, then fill the little gap with some ribbon or marker.


If you have any questions, please email me and I will do my best to clarify. I hope you have fun with this project! I’m thinking these would make great little stocking stuffers or a gift for a special friend.


Cool Sangria for a Hot Summer Day


I haven’t posted recipes here on my blog before, but I’ve gotten a few requests for this one. I make this for just about every party we have and it’s ALWAYS a hit! And it’s got a kick to it, so the host may not want to do too much “sampling” before the festivities get underway (trust me on this!).

  • Mix 2 750 ml bottles of Chablis (that’s 2 regular bottles, or 1 big “jug”…..I buy cheap wine for this, since we’re doctoring it up anyway) with
  • 1 1/2C  sugar 
  • 1 C brandy
  • Slice thinly: 2 lemons, 2 limes, 2 apples, 1 orange

(I usually mix mine in a big stock pot and store in our second refrigerator.)

Let this marinate for several hours or overnight.

  • Dilute with club soda, if desired
  • Very nice served in a punch bowl with an ice ring containing some of the fruit slices OR
  • Serve from a pitcher