December Project – Ribbon Pin Cushions


Woven Ribbon Pin Cushions have been catching my eye for a few months now.

There are only a few examples out there, that I have found. Most of them seem to be coming up on auction sites, often with the all too popular but not authenticated Shaker attribution. (I can not say whether or not ribbon pin cushions have a Shaker connection.)

_20171128_060900These pretty pin cushions combine two ribbons woven together either square on the cushion or on the diagonal. The ribbons are most often in contrasting colors, though not always.

A bow can often be found in one corner or connecting two corners.  Sadly, the bottoms are not shown often enough to get a good survey of what materials are used. So far, one I have seen in photos has been edged with a cord.

For the first few I made, I used the half inch cotton sateen ribbon from The Ribbon Store. I like the body and weave of this ribbon as well as its density of color. I found this ribbon was very easy to work with in this project because it was easy to weave, staying in place without flopping around, and had strong edges without fraying. I used a foam circle as a platform to pin and weave the ribbons on. Woven, the ribbons formed a roughly 3″ square. I basted the woven ribbons, at the cut ends, to a 4″ osenburg foundation. (I accidentally deleted these photos as I went to upload them. Sorry.) I used some ivory wool for the back. I had wanted to use a firm white silk taffeta. But, I can not figure out where I put that.

As you can see, I also used a wider white ribbon in the center of the green and white pin cushion.

While working on the cotton sateen examples, I had Carole at The Ribbon Store looking for silk ribbons and narrower cotton sateen ribbons. I wanted seasonal colors because I had a secondary idea in mind. She came up with a nice color assortment.

The silk ribbon acts differently than the cotton. No surprise there. This is most apparent while weaving the ribbon. The silk is slipperier and doesn’t want to snug up to it neighbors as well as the cotton. It is lighter weight and possibly less thick, or least less dense then the cotton. This effects how the sides of the cushion sit. I find the silk makes a smoother edge than the cotton, which can have more fullness. I suspect the cotton would wear better over many repeated pin stickings as the weave of the ribbon itself is tighter. I can’t say that I like one over the other though. Each has its own advantages.

Want to make your own?

You will need:

  • 1 yard each of 2 different color ribbons about 1/2″ wide
  • Backing fabric (wool or silk)
  • Lining fabric (Photos show osenberg. Muslin works better.)
  • Batting

Cut 6 4″ lengths of each ribbon. Cut 1 4″x4″ square of the backing fabric. Cut 2 4″x4″ squares of your lining fabric.

Place one layer of the lining fabric on a pin-able surface. You may find it helpful to mark a 1/2″ seam allowance and/or center points on the fabric.

Lay one color of your ribbon running vertically. Pin the tops of each. Begin weaving the second color starting at the pinned top, leaving a 1/2″ for the seam allowance. As you weave, be sure to keep the ribbons as snug together as they will allow.

When you have finished weaving, I recommend adding a pin diagonally in each corner, holding the ribbons to the lining. See the bottom left here:

Baste the layers of ribbon and lining together. Keep your stitch just about 1mm to the outside of the woven area (just outside the seam allowance.)

Layer all your layers: lining – ribbons – backing – lining. Stitch around three sides.  On the 4th side, leave 2″ open in the center for turning and stuffing. Use the basting line as a guide, sew just on the inside of it. This should put you right on the edge of the ribbon weaving. I recommend very small stitches 1-2mm in length. If you tend to have loose stitches, try a back stitch to hold the layers together.

Trim the corners. Turn right side out.

Fill the cushion densely with batting. I prefer wool batting. Other options to consider are wood shavings, bran, walnut hulls and wool scraps.

Once full, close the opening with a whip stitch or hidden stitch. You may wish to add a bow or loop in the corner.

Oh, that narrow 1/4″ ribbon? For miniature versions of course. This one is just over 1 1/2″ square.

Don’t miss theBird Ornament over on Don’t Paint the Cat.

Published in: on December 1, 2017 at 7:00 am  Comments (2)  

November Project – Spool Holders


How often have you opened your sewing box or basket to find your spools have run amuck and thread is unrolled everywhere? In the nineteenth century, spools of thread were kept neat and controlled with spool holders and spool trucks. (We’ll talk about the latter later.) Spool holders can be both functional and pretty, using small pieces of silk and ribbon.

Here are a few basic spool holders I saved to my phone/tablet over the past year or so. (I was very bad in not saving all the locations.)


These spool holders are also an excellent way to expand your FanU skills. The top and bottom are constructed using the basic techniques found in Fanciful Utility.

Making a Spool Holder

1 sheet of pasteboard (8.5”x11”)
Silk pieces – 2 approx 8.5”x11”
Matching wooden spools of thread (number based on shape selected.)
Length of ½” wide silk ribbon – Approx ½ yard
A sharp awl and a bodkin
Long straight pins (optional)


Choose the template below you wish to make.
Cut 4 pieces of pasteboard using the solid line.
Cut 2 pieces of silk using the dashed line. This can be one decorative silk for the outside and one plain silk for the inside.


Pair the pasteboard and silk into the top and bottom pieces. Pre-punch holes in the pasteboard using the awl. Make sure the holes for each layer line up.
Cover each set using your preferred method from Fanciful Utility (see pages 39-44)


Pierce the holes through the silk from the outside to the inside, for the top and bottom pieces. Be sure to not break the silk threads, but pass the awl between the weave.


Line top piece and bottom piece up with the spools inside. Place the pins through the holes into  the holes in the spools.


Thread the bodkin with the ribbon. Run the ribbon through the top layer, through the spool and out the bottom layer. Repeat until the spools are neatly held in place and a pretty bow can be tied.
(You may need to copy and paste these into MSWord to size them and print. Use the 1″ line for guidance.)
CirclesShapes 3Shapes 4Shapes 5
Published in: on November 15, 2017 at 2:00 am  Comments (2)  

2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case – Week 4

Welcome to the 2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case!

Be sure to read the previous 4 posts for this Sew Along.


This week we are finishing our Rolled Sewing Case by making and attaching the ends, and adding the pages as well as ties.

img_20170310_200643.jpgFor the end caps, you need the tin circles, exterior and interior fabric. You may also want batting for pin cushion ends, and pasteboard or cardstock if that is your preferred method from Fanciful Utility.

Cover each tin end with your favorite technique from Fanciful Utility. You are simply using tin instead of pasteboard as your base.

I chose to use wool batting on the outside of my ends for pin cushions. I also used cotton batting for the inside in the covering process. *I do not suggest this latter part with the cotton batting because it did not create an ideal tight & smooth surface.*

Use a couple pins to run through the edge of one end in alongside the tin. Using a whip stitch, secure the end to the tube. I suggest whipping in one direction and back to the beginning. Do a wiggle test to check the security.


If you chose to include needle pages, assemble your needle pages and decorate as desired. Whip stitch them into place in your sewing case. (or use a running stitch through just the lining.)

Cut a length of ribbon that will wrap around your rolled sewing case and tie. Fold the ribbon 12″ from one end. Secure this fold to the closing end of the sewing case.

Congratulations, you have completed your Rolled Sewing Case!

Please, join us for future Sew Alongs.

Published in: on May 1, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case – Week 3

Welcome the the 2017 Spring Sew Along!

Be sure to read the first three weeks of this Sew Along.


This week we will be binding the interior to the exterior.

I had trouble deciding whether to stitch the binding over the tin tube or to do the binding first and slide the tube in. Given the angle required for stitching the binding to the inside of the tube, I opted to do the binding first and slide the tube in. I figured this would be the least frustrating for a wide range of sewing skills that may be participating. Do note, this does not make the tightest fit on the corners.

Lay the interior section on top of the exterior material, wrong sides together. Baste the layers together.

At the tube end, fold the binding ribbon over pinning or clipping in place. Do so for each long side 3″ up on each side. Using a blind or whip stitch, catching the selvage edge of the ribbon, attach the ribbon the interior fabric. Be sure not to catch the exterior fabric. Press as needed.


Slide the tin tube inside the layers with the curve opening towards the interior side. This takes a bit of fussing and convincing.



Fold the rest of the ribbon binding around the rest of the perimeter of the sewing case, pinning or clipping in place. Sew the binding to the silk as above. Press as needed.


Completion of this weeks steps has most of the body of the sewing case together.


Next week we will assemble the end pieces and attach the pages as well as ties.

Published in: on April 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case – Week 2

Welcome to the 20117 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case!

Be sure to read the first two posts  for Materials and Week 1.


This week we are going to be working on our interior materials.

I chose to make a sewing case with a single pocket. You may have a scissors pocket or other pockets as well. Be sure to consult your edition of Fanciful Utility for guidance on these.

For my pocket, I cut my silk to 5″ wide by 3″ deep.  I hemmed the top and made a box pleat in the bottom for a roomy pocket. img_20170310_180404.jpgI laid the pocket right side down on the lining where I wanted it to be. (My plaid helped make that easy.) Using a running stitch, I attached the pocket. Then folded it up into place. I basted the pocket along the edges.

I have come to like the batting or lining used in some originals because it seems to give the sewing case more support when made of silk. I lined my interior fabric up on top of my batting and basted into place.


Next week, we will bind the interior to the exterior and add the tin tube.


Published in: on April 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case – Week 1

Welcome to the 2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case!

img_20170310_162317.jpgPlease be sure to read the Announcing post with directions for ordering your Tin Tube, made by the Genesee Country Village and Museum’s Tinsmiths and suggested materials list.


This week we are going to cut our materials and prepare the exterior material. (Your tubes should be arriving about now.)

First, decide what you want your Rolled Sewing Case to hold. This will determine what kinds of pocket you will want and how long your case will need to be. I recommend sketching out on a piece of paper what you will want in your sewing case. It may be helpful to cut a strip of 4″ wide paper for doing this. Leave 3 inches at one end to go around the tin. Here are some ideas:

I decided to have a simple case with one pocket and a pair of small pages. (Okay, the fact that I had pre-cut my leather years ago decided the size of my sewing case.)

Next, shape one end for the closure. This can now become your template for your materials. Redraw it if necessary.

Cut 1 layer of exterior material.

Cut 1 layer of interior material.

Cut your needed pockets – Remember to leave a seam allowance and hems for these.

Cut 2 circles 2″ in diameter for the outside of the ends and 2 circles __” in diameter for the inside of the ends. You may also want to cut 2 pasteboard or cardstock circles the size of the tin ends.

img_20170310_163412.jpgI am going to assume most of us are using an exterior material that is more difficult to sew through.

You may find it easier to pre-drill the holes in your material with either an awl or a sewing machine. These holes should be 1/4″ in from the edge.

img_20170310_164437.jpgStarting at the center of the closure, lay your ribbon binding on the exterior of the exterior piece, with about half overlapping. This should like the selvage up so it just covers the holes you made. Sew the ribbon around the perimeter of the exterior material. All the way around. Be sure to miter corners tightly.

Finish the ribbon by folding the raw end under. Some may wish to press the ribbon over to the other side. (I have not done this because I used leather and don’t know what will happen.)

Some may wish to have their feline assistant approve their work.


Next week we will be creating the interior.

Published in: on April 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case – Information

Hollow sewing cases or housewives seem to appear during the mid-nineteenth century and continue through the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, we will look at different examples. Note: this is one item where there are few examples with images publicly available. I recommend looking at your local collections for additional pieces.

1To the right is a sampling trio of hollow sewing cases. The top is the accompanying illustration for a housewife published in Peterson’s Magazine in 1862, Arthur’s Home Magazine in December of 1863, August 1864, and Godey’s  Lady’s Book in 1864 (directions follow). The bottom left is an undated sewing case of similar construction that I suspect is late 19th century based on the sewing and accompanying advertisement. (The image in Pinterest links only to a Flicker account that I have not been able to find the original image or location in.) To the right is another broken Pinterest link. This one is noted as an early twentieth century example attributed to Shakers. The use of this material can be found earlier.  The seams appear to be hand sewn.


To the left are three examples attributed to Shakers from Willis Henry Auctions, sold in 2011. (Note the examples are not to scale.) Notice each is a single, solid color interior silk. The blue example is 9 1/2″ long. Just the very edge of the binding can be seen on the open tube center. This example has a single pocket, a scissors holder, and embroidered wool needle pages. The red one is 5 3/4″ long. This image allows us to see a spool inside the hollow tube. Note: I do not believe these scissors go with this case as it will not easily roll closed with those handles. Both of these appear to have had ribbon tie closures. The yellow example is a later piece. Notice the snap closure. This small case has three spools and needle pages. This one is 3 1/2″ wide.

Additional Examples:



Materials.—A piece of black cloth, eight and one-half inches long, five and one-half inches wide; a piece of toile  circe the same size; one and one-half yard of blue sarsnet ribbon; one skein of coarse black purse silk; a few needle-fuls of various colored silks; buttons, etc.

The stars are worked either of one or in several bright and varied colors; but out pattern is made in the latter style. The stars of the same color form slanting lines; those in a light shade are white; then two lines farther , yellow; the two intermediate lines are one red and the other blue; then after the yellow stars, one line of green, the other of lilac. When the embroidery is finished, line the cloth with toile cirle, and bind both the outside and inside together with sarsnet ribbon, stitching it neatly on. Cover each of the round pocket, or housewife with a round of crochet work in black silk. To do this, make a chain of four or five stitches , join the first to the last so that as to form a circle; take some fine cord, and over this cord work crochet 8 rounds, increasing here and there, so that the round may be a little convex. When finished, it should measure about two inches round. Sew these rounds on to each side of the embroidered cloth, beginning at one of the ends. The rounds form the sides of the pocket and the embroidery is sewn round them, leaving a space of about one inch for the opening. The handle consists of a piece of bright blue ribbon, 10 inches long, fastened on each side in the middle of each round, and finished with a small bow. Two buttons (see illustration) are then added, and at the edge of the work two button-holes made to shut the housewife. To make the house-wife . To make the house-wife still neater and more complete, a piece of ribbon may be stitched inside to hold scissors, bodkin or knife, without putting these things into the pocket loosely.



Published in: on March 22, 2017 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Announcing the 2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case

At long last, the 2017 Spring Sew Along is here!
Join us in making a Rolled Sewing Case with an Exclusive Tin Tube made by the craftsman at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.

This rolled sewing case, also called a housewife or huswife, unrolls to reveal a hollow base which can hold spools of thread. The hollow section of this sewing case is large enough to hold period correct spools of thread. When I tested mine, I found it held three small wooden spools, two large wooden spools or one Coats and Clark with one Guttenburg spool.

Using techniques from Fanciful Utility, you choose whether to add a pocket, scissors pocket, needle-pages or other period correct storage spaces to your sewing case.

The base of this sewing case is a hand crafted tin tube and ends made by the tinsmiths at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. The tin tubes are available exclusively through the Genesee Country Village and Museum’s Crafts in the Village program for a donation of $5 each, plus $7.15 Priority shipping. Send requests and donation with shipping to: ATTN Deanna Berkemeier; Genesee Country Village and Museum; 1410 Flint Hill Road; Mumford, NY 14511. Please make check or money orders out to Genesee Country Village with Crafts in the Village in the memo line. Locals can email dberkemeier at GCV dot org to arrange pickup at. 

Please order by March 31st so we can all begin our Sew Along together in April. 

Comment below or message Anna that you will be participating. You may also wish to join the Fanciful Utility Sew Along group on Facebook.

img_20170310_162242.jpgRecommended materials (dimensions given with leeway for cutting.)

  • Your copy of Fanciful Utility
  • Tin Tube Kit from GCVM
  • Exterior material: Leather, oil cloth, painted canvas, wool, tapestry  – 6″ by 12″
  • Interior fabric: Silk taffeta, quilt weight cotton or tropical wool (also for end caps) – 6″by 14″
  • Interior pockets: Silk, leather, cotton as desired
  • Hand full of wool batting
  • 2 yards of 5/8″ cotton sateen ribbon img_20170310_163346.jpg
  • Thin cotton or wool batting. Felted wool will also work. – 6″by 12″
  • Wool flannel or felted wool for needle pages


Published in: on March 14, 2017 at 3:49 pm  Comments (19)  

Sew Along – Slippers

My Slipper Ideas

As I mentioned last week, I haven’t made up my mind which slippers I will do. I want to do a patriotic pair, I have materials for an applique wool & ribbon pair and I have wool floss for a Berlin work pair.

If only I had time to do all of them.

But, I don’t.

I’ve narrowed it down to two techniques, using the supplies on hand.

One will be the Berlin work pair. I have a bunch of purples and greens. It is a small, limited supply of beautifully coordinated colors that I lucked upon acquiring together. Fearing how far the wool will go, I think a simple slip-on would make the most of the materials. I was thinking I would do this 1857 Godey’s Slipper, just with purple instead of orange:c8193289ad3247c95ea53d84622a0f62


Then, I saw this Peterson’s 1858 slipper:2016-05-16-08.42.43-1.jpg.jpeg

“Nothing more beautiful than our slipper pattern was ever seen in a Magazine. It may be worked, if preferred, in green and purple, instead of in brown and gold.”

In greens and purples???? Why, yes, I think I will….


The other pair will be take from the Oriental Slipper design in Peterson’s, January of 1866:



I have a nice black wool for the base. Instead of the three colors of braid to directions call for, I have two widths of light blue ribbon. I am picturing the embroidery either in a dark blue (like what will be left from my purse) or a mix of colors, possibly greens or reds. The other piece that is up in the air is whether to use the cones from the illustration or to shape the ribbons something like this (awfully crude sketch):



Published in: on May 22, 2016 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Sew Along – Purse (post 3)

Have you started your purse? If so, please share below in the comments or in the FB group.

My Progress:

After I reached the 1.5″ diameter, I switched to a double crochet. I did three rows of the double crochet, then started adding beads to every other double crochet. At first, I tried to slide the bead onto the thread over. I did a few stitches of that. Then, un-did them. Then, I tried to add the bead during the final pull through of the double crochet. I decided that was a complete pain. I un-did those stitches. Then, I want back to putting the beads on during the thread over. It was the easier of the two methods.

Four episodes of an odd super-hero show later, I had two, almost three, rows of beading done (plus the preceding two unbeaded rows.) There is some wonkiness in the full light of the camera flash. I should have put a measure in there. That is about 2″ wide.2016-02-28-20.00.22.jpg.jpeg2016-02-28-20.00.43.jpg.jpeg

I do have one small problem. I am using 30 beads per row. Below are all the beads I have left. I am going to have to buy more.

Additionally, I do not want to cut the thread to add more beads. Nope, nope. Not at all. Originally, I just wanted to bead the blue area. Now, I’m thinking, I’ll be beading the white stripe as that is the only way I can think to add more beads without unspooling the whole blue spool or cutting the thread. 2016-02-28-20.01.25.jpg.jpeg

Lessons learned:

  • More than 4 grams of cut steel beads are needed. I now estimate more like 8 for a minimal beading, 12 for a simple striping. Much more for a design.
  • I am finding it very tempting to do a pattern with the beads.
Published in: on March 13, 2016 at 9:37 am  Comments (2)