It Took Two

A project finished.

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Where to turn next?

I needed a new project to work on in the evening, something portable and easy to pick up, and put down.

After the long months of working on the fusion quilt, I wanted a to work on something that would provide the sweet satisfaction of finishing sooner, rather than later.

But I loved working with the vintage linens so I chose to collaborate with an older friend, to finish a tablecloth she started.

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Why my friend didn’t finish this project, she didn’t say. It might’ve been that the cloth got stained and she got discouraged. I assured her that I could get the spots out.

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She used the green she loved—look at the flowers in each corner!–but she didn’t object when I wanted to add more colors.

She showed me some new stitches. Left to myself, I would’ve done the flowers with just lazy daisy stitch but her approach, to anchor the sides of the petals as well as the points, makes a prettier effect.

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I wanted to change the way we did the centers of the flowers, from French knots to a pulled thread circle, and she didn’t say no.

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She did a part that I wouldn’t have enjoyed—all that green satin stitch in the leaves and stems. And I picked up where she left off and added color in the flowers.

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I was going to do the zigzag border in the multicolors of the flowers but that looked overwrought so, in a nod to her preferences, I used a green she chose. Now, the zigzags look to me like grass the flowers flourish in.

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I also cleaned the cloth up, so we could be proud of our finished product. It took all my secret formulas to get that big stain out but now I can’t see it, even though I know where it was.

It’s such a pretty tablecloth she and I made!

I’d like to give her credit by naming her and showing you her photo.

But I can’t.

I’d love to have the pleasure of showing her the finished tablecloth and hearing her thoughts on what we’ve made together.

But I won’t.

I have no idea who she is . . . or was, since she has probably gone to that great sewing circle in the sky.

I don’t even know how her tablecloth came into my hands. I imagine I picked it up at a garage sale or it came as a part of a mixed lot I purchased from eBay.

The tablecloth has been sitting around here for what seems like forever, waiting for a new set of hands to pick it up and complete the work begun by those other hands.

We worked well together, she and I.

I’ll enjoy using our little tablecloth, made by two pairs of loving hands at home.

Have you ever finished a project begun by another? I’d love to hear about it!

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84 thoughts on “It Took Two

  1. Kerry this is beautiful in every way – such a charming narrative to match all those lovely delicate stitches and a wonderful finish. May you have many happy times with your gorgeous tablecloth.

  2. Enchanting! The project and the narrative. I have many old linens (and less talent and patience than you), but I feel the spirits of these unknown artists and one day maybe I’ll collaborate. For now, you’ve reminded me what magic can happen.

    • It’s good to see you back! And thanks for the lovely comment. You’re lucky to have the old linens–and maybe, just maybe, someday you’ll find inspiration to do something with them!

  3. Dirndl Skirt said it first…enchanting both the project and the narrative. The table cloth is really something…simplicity with perfection. I am always excited when I spot a new post from you – I Kknow I am guaranteed a great start for my day….have a wonderful week 🙂 Sharon

  4. Beautiful work; that central square wreath of flowers has such charm, as well as a certain discipline and austerity of design I love. I’m so glad this piece captured your imagination enough to finish it.

    • When I saw the photo of just the center square of flowers, it struck me that it looked a little like a Baltimore quilt style pattern. I think the design is very appealing–I couldn’t’ve enjoyed working on a pattern I didn’t like.

  5. Have you ever done embroidery on vintage damask table cloths or napkins? I inherited some pale pink damask napkins from my mother-in-law, but I am unsure how to proceed.

    • I have not done embroidery on damask. These older linens, like my tablecloth, were sold with the pattern printed right on them but I’ve never seen damask come that way. You could look on eBay for old iron-on transfers (I think you’d find lots) and try that. One of my blog friends has her family use a pen to sign her big damask holiday tablecloth every year and then she embroiders over what they’ve written. You can buy pens with ink that disappears, I believe, so you could try drawing your own designs. Hmmmm . . . lots of possibilities!

  6. I smiled and then choked up reading this beautiful story. Whoever that lady was, she is smiling down on you. What a thrill to clean and finish that lovely project. I’ve never found anything like that to finish. This is a beautiful post that made a lot of folks who follow you have a better day. 🙂

    • Aww, Judy–you’re so sweet. Thanks for your kindness. I lurk around eBay frequently and am always kind of surprised, and saddened, by the number of unfinished old items that are for sale, especially quilt tops that were near quilted. A person could make their whole crafting life a mission to finish those projects started by others!

  7. I do so love the way you hold those who went before in your mind and heart and share them with us. I look forward to my weekly jolt of recognition from your hand – both in the thought shared and the work produced. (And your secret stain removal recipe should be patented and sold I’m thinking.) The two of you have made a charming cloth with beautiful colour choices and impeccable stitches – but you know that fusion quilt makes my heart go pwer-ding, pwer-ding!! 😀

    • Thanks, Pauline–your comments always leave me happy! I’m gearing up to start the second fusion quilt, I think. I just have SO many scraps to choose from, it’s a matter of diving in. And my stain removal ins’t a secret formula–it’s a series of products I use, all easy to buy, and a lot of very hot water and long soaks. On this cloth, I almost gave up on that one spot but ended up leaving the cloth in the hot sun and dampening it regularly with a spray of water. And that did the trick!

      • Oh, that last step is how we used to bleach our table-linens, tea towels and baby nappies back when ‘disposable’ anythings hadn’t been invented. I’d quite forgotten! 😀 I’m so glad to hear you will make another fusion quilt. Watching that advance will be a treat.

  8. You brought tears to my eyes! This is a simply elegant collaborative work made all the more beautiful by the unknown hands that helped you create it. In a way you brought her back to life. “The big sewing circle in the sky” – what else is heaven if not doing our best work in the craft we loved best?

    Strangely, embroidery keeps popping up in my head, on instagram and here and its given me a powerful hankering to try it again. I think the last time I embroidered (other than with words) was when I was around 14 and a young budding hippie applying lazy daisy flowers to every pair of jeans I owned.

    • Thank you, Susanne–this is a great compliment coming from a writer whose words always move me! If I believed in heaven, I would like it to be a place where I could use sun and shadow and make fabulous weavings!

      And I really think embroidery is having a moment! I’m seeing quite a lot of it lately, too, with traditional and more modern, hip designs! I had to laugh about your jeans–that was my #1 pastime as a teenager! I was so totally not cool but I could embroider on my jeans . . .

    • That stain almost got the best of me! And I hate that and it strengthens my will to win. If I didn’t get it out then my work and my collaborator’s work would’ve been wasted . . .

  9. What a wonderful project…that now has a use, and yes I once did semi-finish an embroidered cloth, which I don’t know where that is now; maybe I gave back to be sold on…I remember having to help unpick one, where the person had used all 6 threads and it wasn’t looking great at all…just made it bulky. When we had unpicked it – there were issues but I seem to recall someone did that lattice sort of stitch where you cut out bits (forget name) and it turned out quite nice…

    • Using all 6 threads would make it very bulky! I was surprised to see that the original stitches on my cloth were done with 4 threads–I’d never used that many before. Unpicking is the worst . . .

  10. Very cleverly presented. I had to go back and reread it and look very closely at your pictures. It is a lovely tablecloth you two made.

  11. Oh, what a wonderful story! You had me going, wondering how you met this older friend. I’m afraid I asked you this before (getting forgetful), but do you have a page with your stain-removal tricks?

  12. I love this embroidered cloth and and the way you told the story with your O. Henry twist. I have done this! In my case there were identical motifs in each corner of the cloth. She completed one, but was a restless sort who was bored by repetition. I used her colors, and her floss, a perle cotton, to complete the design.

  13. May someone take some of my unfinished projects when I am gone and finish them as well as you did. Of course my projects are a bit different, but still it would be nice if someone came along.

  14. You have a such a way with words. I enjoyed following your images and words for this project. I don’t embroider much, but I’ll save the side anchor petal stitch for some future project. 😀

  15. I love the twist at the end of your story Kerry, and that you collaborated with someone you’d never met but still were true to both yours and her styles, with a delicately beautiful result.

  16. A wonderful story, about a truly special friendship. I hope one day my half finished projects that I leave behind will find someone like you. It’s very pretty indeed and well done on stain removal.

  17. Let’s hope all our WIPs and UFOs find somebody like you to cherish and complete them.
    You couldn’t make a start on mine now could you? 😉

  18. Love reading about “your time together” and the result is certainly what she (he??) would have wanted, I’m sure. ‘Giving new life’ is what it’s all about and you did………….hugs………….

      • Oh yes……….mostly wondering what prompted the creation and who was the intended recipient or purpose——-special occasion or serviceable. I can feel the heart in each piece…………….

  19. This reminded me of the book “Anne of Green Gables,” when Ruby Gillis died. Ruby’s mother gave Anne an embroidered centerpiece that Ruby had been working on and Rachel Lynde commented that, “there’s always a piece of unfinished work left,” and added, “but I suppose there’s always someone left to finish it.” Nice that you could be that someone for this piece.

  20. I don’t visit your site often as I can barely sew a button and really have little to contribute to a discussion. But I popped in and loved this story – it’s simply wonderful. There’s a story there – which Brenda has picked up on. To say nothing of the skill I don’t have, of course. Have you discounted the possibility that your mystery needleworker was a 16-stone bricklayer from Neasden?

  21. You have honored the person who first stitched on that cloth, Kerry. It’s a beautiful piece. While I haven’t finished someone else’s project, I am the recipient of one. In the ’60’s, my Mom embroidered a quilt top in red cross stitch on white. Then it sat. The summer after my high school graduation, my Grandmother and I hand-quilted that top together. Her stitches were much finer than my clumsy, impatient ones. A couple years before she died, my Mom gave me that quilt. A true family project.

    • How great that you have a three-generations quilt! While my mother and grandmothers all did some sort of sewing/textile/yarn crafts none of the projects overlapped. Your quilt has a lot of family stitched into it!

  22. Beautiful – both the tablecloth and the post. I really enjoyed the unexpected twist at the ending with your collaborator being an unknown person. I think that I would have also quit in discouragement after getting a large stain on a project like this. I’m amazed that you were able to get it out.

    • I’ve gotten kind of cocky about my stain removal skills! It’s a personal challenge, every time, to see if I can get the stains out. I *almost* always can . . .

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