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Home Sew & TellQuilt & Tell These Two Quilts Feature Beautiful Embroidery and Applique!

These Two Quilts Feature Beautiful Embroidery and Applique!

by Beth Cooper

My name is Karen Grosboll, and I’m from the Front Range area of NE Colorado. My mother taught me to embroider when I was in 5th grade, and I needed something to do with my hands while my class listened as our teacher read the “Little House” books daily after lunch.  I had already read the books, and complained to the teacher & my mom. The teacher reluctantly agreed that I could embroider while she read. I learned to sew in high school Home Ec class and with my mother.  My pride and joy was the white Singer Featherweight she gave me when I was 15. It had its own teal carrying case, with my initials. I still love it, and use it!

Quilt Number 1:  “Cornelia’s Fancywork”

Pattern:  Adaptation of the Colette pattern from “Blended Wall Quilts” by Sharon Evans Yenter.

Fabric: Four antique layover style pillow shams; Nanette by Moda Fabrics.  All of the white areas are vintage cotton c.1920s-early 1930s, cut from the layover style pillow shams featured in the quilt.

Quilter: Custom free motion quilted by Beth Furnish of Bunza Quilting

16 years ago my mother-in-law gave me several “layover style” pillow shams.  They were edged on 3 sides, embellished with floral embroidery in the centers, and in very good condition. They were meant to “lay over” a bed pillow, and larger ones could lay over 2 pillows on a double bed.  The pillow shams, plus many pillow slips & tablecloths were the handiwork of her mother, Cornelia, who worked on “fancywork” evenings after dinner.  My mother-in-law remembered her mom doing hand sewing while she and her sister were doing homework in grade school and high school.  They always referred to her projects as “Mother’s Fancywork.” Perhaps some of the items were in Cornelia’s hope chest when she married around 1912.  I had no idea how I was going to use the shams, and thought about my dilemma for years. Then I saw the Nanette collection! Cornelia always embroidered flowers, and I wanted to use something in a contemporary floral, romantic, with gorgeous colors that weren’t too soft or too vibrant.

I chose to modify the Colette pattern by replacing two blocks on each of the four sides, cutting the shams to match the needed space, and appliqueing the lower edge of each sham to another fabric so that the edging was showcased. The white cotton used in the 4 corner stars came from the shams, and I saved the rest for my 2nd pillow sham quilt project.

Quilt Number 2:  “Cornelia’s Clothesline”

Pattern:  Some rows from Moda All Stars “All in A Row” and others of my own design

Fabric:  One layover style pillow sham; scraps of Nanette by Moda; other fabric scraps from my stash.  All of the white areas are vintage cotton c.1920s-early 1930s, cut from the layover style pillow shams featured in the quilt.

Quilter:  Beth Furnish of Bunza Quilting, who shared these quilts with her quilt guild in Stillwater, OK – and then she teased that she didn’t want to send the quilts back to me!

This quilt began with the central theme of two dogs playing with a ball in a backyard. The ball covers a stain on the pillow sham, and the asymmetrical “yard” just came together from scraps.  I took the dog motif from a Scotty dog quilt top that Cornelia hand appliqued c.1934 for my mother-in-law but never quilted.  (The quilt was finally finished for her in 1995 after it was discovered in the bottom of a cedar chest.)  I modified the Scotty dog pattern to become our family’s two Cairn terriers. Above the dogs is a “fence” to keep them away from the clothesline.  The dresses are for Cornelia and her two little daughters, and are edged with leftover trim from the pillow shams. White cotton in the stars came from the leftover sham scraps.  

Below the dogs is a separation area, and a row of  Moda All Stars thread spools, which represent both Cornelia, and me, her future grand-daughter by marriage. She died when I was 3 so she definitely didn’t know another family sewist was finally coming!

Below the spools is my version of houses on a lake, with grass, a retaining wall, and water.  We lived on a Colorado lake for 25 years and Cornelia lived near the shore in western Washington state.  Blue hedgehogs are running between some of the houses.  My daughter gave me 1 yard of hedgehog fabric about 12 years ago, and I have used small pieces in many of my projects. I grew to love hedgehogs when we lived in Scotland in 1976, and my grandchildren love to look for hidden hedgehogs when they snuggle under one of my quilts!

These quilts turned out so wonderfully – I know Cornelia would be proud of what I have done with her fancywork!

Thank you,


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22 days ago

What a great idea to use Cornelia’s Fancywork! I have pillow cases embroidered by my former grandmother-in-law, so I’m going to use them like this! Thank you!