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A Very Special Birthday Placemat.

October 3, 2010

My sweet sweet Great Auntie Gisa is turning 85 this month. My Mom is also celebrating her birthday (I totally can’t even remember how old she is though – 60 something? ) So my Aunt flew in from Greece and the whole family gathered at the Olive Garden yesterday for one heck of a birthday party!

As usual, in the waning hours of the evening before, I dove well in over my head with the  intention of making 2 placemats for my great aunt, 2 for my mom and 2 for my aunt.

I thought about my great aunt, and decided that just any old random fabric wouldn’t do.  With precious time ticking away, I dug and scrounged through my ridiculously unorganized stash to finally find this:

A few years ago my Great Auntie Gisa handed me a beautiful, very old tea towel from her mother. It was hand woven in my great aunt’s great grandfather’s textile mill in Germany, and bears the hand embroidered initials of her mother – E.P. She requested a hat, so that her mom could always be close to her. I made the hat, and happily she still wears it. I remember that I just couldn’t bear to cut into the beautiful edging with the initials.

Finally, I found the right project and the perfect time to to use it. It was to be on a special placemat, so she can dine with her mother every day.

It needed a nice, gently textured fabric to frame and contrast. Something simple yet beautiful to highlight the quilting. I pulled a gorgeous, light mushroom linen and a small bit of ivory lace. My aunt loves lace.

Now this tea towel must be well over a hundred years old, and is incredibly soft and supple. Not an ounce of stiffness anywhere. There was some yellowing near the centre, but this bottom edging miraculously remained unstained. I decided to stabilize it against some good quality quilting cotton and then got to work.

Mind you that it was now the next morning and although I spent the evening cutting 6 placemats worth of fabric and batting, I still had nothing to show for myself. There was only 2 1/2 hours left to sew *eek!*

This one first. I framed out the vintage strip, topstitched a bit of lace, and quickly quilted in my freeform feathery design. Oh how I wish I’d had a lot more time to really do a good, smooth job. *cry* It turned out well enough, and I even managed to add in a little singing birdy into the quilting:

I backed it with a piece of beautiful embroidered white linen..

I used the same white linen for the binding and I handstitched it down as we sped down the highway to the restaurant. Oh lordy, I’ve never blindstitched so fast in my life! As luck would have it, even after losing my needle in the car somewhere, I found an extra needle in my pin cushion and tied off my final knot as we pulled into the parking lot. *phew*

She loved it of course, and my mom – with tears in her eyes – said that I couldn’t have created a more perfect and meaningful gift.

I managed to get 4 placemats quilted and trimmed that morning, but this was the only one I managed to bind. Mom and Auntie Gisa had to relenquish their other placemats so I can finish them. Today I’m racing to sew up the 2 for Auntie Jutta before she leaves on Tuesday morning. I’ll post about those when I’m finished.

Here we all are at the restaurant:

Remember that handsome couple on the left? Yep, my little brother Mikey and his awesome wife Analise! (scroll down to see bit about the wedding and dress)

And that lovely bearded guy in the back, sporting the superman shirt his son picked out for him? That’s Vince, my hubby and the mastermind behind my Halloween patterns.

After lunch we went back to my great aunt’s house for the traditional family Canasta Tournament.

This is his serious game face:

And this is M and my Aunt, the champions of the canasta tournie:

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2010 4:01 pm

    That is a LOT of gorgeousness in one post – the placemat (*I* cried!) and your family.

  2. October 4, 2010 4:09 am

    what a thoughtful way to use that fabric. I’m sure they’ll be treasured!

  3. Paula permalink
    October 5, 2010 9:00 pm

    What a beautiful and meaningful use for the vintage linen – great job!

  4. October 9, 2010 10:45 am

    Oh Sonja! That is fabulous. What a gift to treasure! I can imagine that those will definitely turn into family heirlooms! I love the bird in the quilting… I think it makes the placemats even more unique. Your quilting is great… what kind of machine do you own? Hugs, L


  1. I will miss her warm smile. « Artisania

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