Upholstery Repair—Needlepoint Stool Cover

My friend Gay’s mom owns an upholstery shop in Tennessee. They had received a lovely Victorian needlepoint-topped stool that was in disrepair, and needed help restoring it to its original condition. Gay’s mom removed the needlepoint and sent to me.


There were holes in the canvas, plus tears in it that affected both canvas and yarn stitches, which you can view if you click on the photos above. Critters had nipped at the wool yarn and removed either all or part of the stitches. Plus, the piece was dirty and needed a cleaning. This is an all-wool work, and thus had to go into the freezer for a de-bugging before anything else was done. Next came washing and blocking (done face-down, which keeps the stitching uniform):


washed and blocked another angle    washed and blocked upside down

I also stitched a fine netting material around the piece, which makes it easier to pull it for blocking, and also keeps the edges from raveling. Thanks, Bid! She’s my friend and fellow needlework repairer who also designs canvases. We share lots of great tips. See my blocking table? That was also a tip from her. It’s a hollow core door from Home Depot, with a checkered oilcloth stapled onto it. That makes it easy to line up fabric.

Step 3 in this repair job was to begin stitching up the canvas tears. I had some good black tapesty wool for the job, and used some sturdy upholstery thread to reweave the canvas. Here are some photos of that work:

Once the canvas was stabilized again, I could start the actual stitch repair:

For large size canvases, you may wish to purchase a pair of canvas pliers.  The large grooved teeth are great for gripping canvas and stretching.  These are available at art supply stores.

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Plus there were other little repairs to single stitches here and there.

And here are the photos of the finished piece:

And here is the finished stool. Didn’t the upholstery shop do a great job?

finished stool--Nelms Upholstery

The Dog Ate my Needlework!

A woman from CA emailed me to ask if I could repair a needlepoint pillow that a puppy had chewed. She sent photos, I replied with an estimate, and she then told me that my repair would be a surprise for her employer, 1940’s era movie actress Joan Fontaine (Rebecca, Jane Eyre):

dog damagefront dog bite

(above photos showing damaged pillow backing and cording + bite out of needleworked piece)

Ms. Fontaine had worked the needlepoint herself. I looked her up and discovered that Vanity Fair had done a somewhat recent article on her (2006.) She is still beautiful, with lovely pulled-back silver ponytail and statuesque posture. She’s now in her 90’s, and continues passionately helping dogs through the ASPCA. With 5 of her own fur babies, it’s no wonder a few household items get gnawed on. The one who ate her needlepoint pillow was a 1-year-old German Shepherd rescue. I can totally relate, because I have an Aussie cattle dog rescue, a lab/pit rescue, and two cats.  Winking smile

I always love getting to know my customers and hearing them tell about their treasured items they’ve brought for repair, and this client sure was a special one. I emailed back to Ms. Fontaine’s assistant to say that Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite movies. She plays a beleaguered new bride with a husband (Sir Laurence Olivier) whose ex-wife casts a pall over everything. Even from the grave, she seems bent on ruining the present and future for the new Mrs. DeWinter. It’s classic gothic DuMaurier novel, set to film by master of suspense, Hitchcock.

My work began with much cutting of fabric. Then I sat down to repair the needlepoint. I didn’t have a perfect match of blue for the background, but some vintage yellow I own was bright enough. My purchased canvas was a wee bit smaller squares per inch than what was originally used, but nevertheless I cut a square and put it under the original. Then I worked through both layers and after a while, I had it all re-stitched.

pulling back of damaged threadsstitching through two layersalmost completed re-stitching

Once I’d hand-stitched the bitten area, I went about the task of cutting out new velveteen for the casing, creating the piping, etc:

showing dog bite finishfront with sides onfront and back

And finally, Joan’s pillow is revamped:

joan f pillow finish

Thank you, Joan, for your business, for your caring for animals Dog face, and for the incredible talent you shared with the world. Red heart


Things I made over Christmas 2011

I managed to make one ornament. I usually knit or crochet something for the tree. This year, I made one from a shared online freebie pattern:


Pine cone! I love how it turned out. I would say it was easy, but it wasn’t! Oh, well. It also hurt my hands, making it with the thread and a small hook. I think it was a size 7 hook, and 10 cotton. This cotton was given to me by a nice customer, Gayle. Thanks!

Then I made my friend a sewing basket. Well, I thrifted the basket. I wanted on that had handles so she could tote it around her house. We often do Friday sewing days, and she carries her sewing from the basement up to the kitchen. Everything was made from free online tutorials, etc,… However, I had a *bear* of a time with the basket liner, so it’s more of an “on my own” thing. I followed two tutorials, and they didn’t work for my shape of basket, so ended up taking little tucks in the sides and it fit just right. Third time was a charm! Whew!

Christmas Ornament Finished

Gayle K had an angel ornament that needed a few areas completed. The areas remaining were the face, hair, halo, and certain rows on the angel’s wings. I didn’t take a “before” photo, but here are some photos showing where I began work on the face and hair, and then wings:

There weren’t instructions, but there were outlined areas. I put the face on just to hold the spaces while I did the rest of the angel. Then I did more detailed eyes and outlined the mouth after everything else was done. These photos are off my iPhone, so they’re a little dark. The one below is taken with the camera:


Here is the finished ornament:


Tools of The Trade

My one must-have tool is the lovely head contraption product, Mag Eyes, which provides enough magnification (along with my 1.75 magnifying drug store glasses) for me to see teensy tiny stitches:

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Another thing I have to have is on the table to my right—a good Ott Lite type of lamp with a daylight bulb in it. That gives me the ability to note correct colors in my threads and on the textiles I’m working on. I also have a floor lamp Ott Lite in my workroom, right beside my work table.

I look so serious, but I’m really not! When I’m working, though, that’s pretty deep concentration.

I try not to wear my Mag Eyes out in public, but there have been times (like at the drive-in before the movie started) when I couldn’t help it, I had to be doing something with my hands, so out came the funny-looking headgear and my personal cross-stitch project. It was tote-able, and people who know me well know I have to always have some sort of stitching in what I call my “fun bag” in order to keep from being bored. There is nothing worse than standing in a queue or sitting in a car and not being able to distract with something interesting.

There are many other tools I use on a regular basis, and I’ll take photos of them and mention them in another post.

On my work table right now is Bob from Colorado Springs’ crocheted bedspread. Here is my work so far, which I’ve really just begun. On the area below, I’m reworking the treble crochets in the openwork that had come unraveled:

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Here is what I have just completed for myself (mostly while watching TV at night.) It’s a Quaker sampler pattern (“Thinking Quaker”) and the chart was generously shared online for free. I made a few changes, mainly the little sewing machine on the left. It was an embroidery hoop with fabric in it on the original pattern, but I’d been seeing some cute sewing machine cross-stitch patterns, so I adapted one and it fit. Also added name and date at bottom. Not totally satisfied with date, so I may make it smaller by one hole in the cross-stitch fabric. That’s called being a perfectionist! I was considering installing this piece in the middle of a small, glass-topped Sudberry House tray (below—and you can see that one side is off, as well as the glass and screws are sitting at bottom left of tray) but decided to put another “to be done” project in it, a “Home of a Needleworker” sampler that would fill the entire space better:

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A Mother’s Needlepoint Restretched on Acid-Free Board and Reframed

My customer had a beautiful needlepoint woodland scene hand-stitched by his mother that had been water-damaged. Mainly, though, it needed to be removed from the old cardboard backing that someone had originally stapled it to for framing.


Close-up photo of water damage, acidic cardboard and tear in canvas:

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I began by removing the staples and getting the needlework off the cardboard. Next, I patched the torn area with interfacing fabric. Then I machine-stitched clean, unbleached muslin fabric to all sides of the piece. This fabric doesn’t have any starches or finishes on it and it’s very sturdy. It should last a long, long time and be “healthy” for the needlework.

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Once the fabric was on, all the seams were hand-stitched together and the edges turned under, preparing the piece for lacing it to a piece of Canson brand acid-free art board. Here it is, pinned for lacing:


And here is the piece laced and ready to go to the framer:

Now the woodlands needlepoint stitched by Ron D of NY’s mother is finished. The frame is from Caroline Budd’s shop here in town. They put it in a protective plastic, and hence the glare and the wrinkling. I didn’t want to take it out and have to wrap it again since it is taped in the back and will ship better that way. Looks good!

Her Mother’s Unfinished Cross-stitch Embroidery

Gayle K contacted me. She had a partially-finished cross-stitch her mother had worked on before her death, and Gayle wanted to have it completed. We agreed on a price, and she sent the piece. It was in a stretcher frame, and came with directions and the materials I would need during my process. That included embroidery floss, Balger Braid (shiny twisted thread used for embellishment,) Watercolours (multi-colored cotton floss that’s braided,) a few large beads, seed beads, and an assortment of needles.

It appeared that my job was to fill in four remaining hearts and the middle heart border around the saying “Needlework is the Heart of Friendship.” Nice!

Here is the piece, and when I took this photo, I’d already begun the upper right heart:


As I flipped through the pages of instructions, I could tell I was in for a trip! It seemed that Gayle’s mom had been a member of White Pine Embroiderer’s Guild, a subsection of the Embroiderer’s Guild of America. Impressive! And apparently, she had taken a workshop by someone who created this heart sampler. The instructions are written out as if the “teacher” is speaking, and the graphing is definitely done by hand. It wasn’t easy to follow. Mostly, I had to fumble around until I figured out just how she was working her graph, which lines meant to cross-stitch in which area.

And so here is the first heart, showing me working on it (left) and then completed (yes, the upper part of the heart is supposed to have un-filled-in hearts):

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Next came a heart that had TWELVE rows of stitching! This one took a while to complete! LOVED doing that waffle stitch in the burgundy. Actually, I enjoyed this one a lot.


I’m still hard at work on the sampler, and I’ll post photos when I finish. One part of the instructions are missing, and all I have to go by is an actual photo of the designer’s demonstration piece, so I’ll have to make up my own heart on that one.

What I like about this is, it’s a very, very nice piece to work on. Gorgeous, really, in its stitch details and varied techniques yet simple enough design-wise to be quite tasteful. This is a sampler that should be around, in style and cherished for many decades, in my opinion.

Needlework Repair—5 Reasons Why People Do It

People who end up emailing or phoning me generally know this: there is one main reason for getting a piece of needlework repaired: because you want to. That’s the answer in its simplest form. But for people like me, who tend to overthink just about everything, let’s break it down to five reasons from which we can choose (and of course some may overlap):


This is probably the main reason why someone hires me. It’s their mother’s unfinished crewel embroidery, for example. It’s something she worked on with her own hands, that she put love and attention into. It may or may not be worth a lot to the rest of the world, but to this mother’s daughter, or this aunt’s nephew, it means “Mom” or “Aunt Trudy” made it. So it’s cherished. How do you put a monetary value on that? You don’t. It’s priceless. Therefore, it’s worth getting it repaired, framed, made into a pillow, or whatever needs to be done so the owner may enjoy it daily.


There are people out there who collect things of beauty and they just have a great eye for what is fine, rare, what took a lot of work. I admire those people. I’m one of them, to a certain extent. I love trolling crafts fairs and antiques malls and seeing the things people have created, working for hours to turn a leg on an old chair, to cane a seat. Quilting is amazing, and it takes so long to cut, to piece, to sandwich fabrics and to apply all that hand-stitching that layers it and adds such interest. Some people know very little about how to create the piece, but they certainly appreciate it. And they know when something is worthy of restoration. They know restoration, preservation, completion, will add to the value of their “find.”


Some items I have worked on have been gifts that the creator was working on and hasn’t finished, but would like to gift to someone else. It’s important because the person they want to give it to is important to them.

Other items are something a client brings to me to repair because someone else they care about wants or needs it fixed. Ex: a mother bringing her child’s blanket in for repair


I haven’t really worked on anything in this area. I’d had a few inquiries that may or may not have been from dealers who had a nice textile that needed repairing. They didn’t use me to do the work, but the pieces (or photos they sent of them) were great. I imagined that they might be antiques dealers, since they had clearly found something amazing, and if repaired, they could get a good price for it. But they might simply be collectors (see #2 above) who found something wonderful and wanted to fix it and keep it themselves.


This is MY personal favorite, since I do it SOOOO often! I have this thing about buying things cheap and fixing them…or at least, dragging them home and letting them sit around while I daydream about fixing them, or hold them for years in my basement with the thought of fixing them, before I end up sending them back out to a thrift store. And what’s wrong with that, I ask?? LOL It does tend to add to the clutter!

Seriously, there is something really heartening in finding a little wood table with faded needlepoint and 1 out of 4  corner brackets missing, with a badly scratched glass top, and being able to 1) stitch it a new needlepoint top, 2) find a guy named Brian who works at an ACE Hardware in the mountains who’ll make my brass corner brackets (all 4 for $15!!), 3) getting a new glass top made, and putting it all back together into a cute little side accent piece—when it was purchased for all of $10 at a rummage sale! It’s all a treasure hunt, a “puzzle pieces fitting together” high that keeps me dragging home items that need TLC.

So hey, send me YOUR items. I promise to always get to them first, and *then* work on my never-ending supply of “fix me’s.”

Note from Happy Customer

Dear Melissa,

I can’t thank you enough for the incredible repair work you did on my little girl’s blankie. As you know, the blankie was hand-knitted by our great aunt and my daughter doesn’t do anything without it. I was so afraid as the hole kept getting bigger that we’d have to have someone re-do the entire blankie, which could have taken forever. You are a true miracle worker! You repaired the hole so it looks like nothing ever happened and got it done so fast my daughter hardly had a chance to miss her beloved blankie. We are eternally grateful. I’m glad I know who to call if something like this ever happens again. Although I can be certain that part of the blankie is set for life.

Thank you so much,

Kathy and Amelia W

And the finished product…

Here is a photo of the needlework sampler completed. I added a linen border for the client because the original stitcher hadn’t left much fabric at the edges of her piece:


And here is that “a” re-worked (it’s the “a” in “are” between “Blessed” and “the”:


missing letter 382

Also added embellishments, as requested by client:


So, another project has left the craft table, and another is on its way to me in the mail!

Thank you to all my customers! Your business is appreciated.