Signs of Spring

I haven’t seen freshly cut branches of pussy willow for years, but to me they mean spring is just around the corner. When I was young my aunt would always fill large vases with the branches and I loved to stroke the soft catkins.

When we decided to use the word March for an art quilt group challenge, I immediately thought of those catkins. Then I remembered a small table cloth with matching napkins I had saved from my parents’ house. They were embroidered with pussy willows.

When I unearthed them I recalled why I never used them. The fabric is an unpleasant synthetic. I have no idea what it is, but the set was a wedding gift to my parents circa the late 1940s. I think the embroidery thread is rayon, but the golden yellow cloth doesn’t feel like rayon, and I don’t want to try a burn test on it while the house is closed up.

I’m sure vintage linens collectors will be horrified, but I cut out the embroidered motifs, fused them to gray fabric and stitched them down.  Since that looked bare, I added branches and the outline of a bird’s nest.  Then, the branches needed adornment so I painted catkins and embroidered the brown bits at the stem with perle cotton. I topped off my efforts with yellow dots on the catkins to represent pollen.

Now it’s a new pillow, backed with some Martha Negley fabric I love but could never figure out how to use.

Pussy Willow Pillow

Pussywillow Pillow Back


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

12 responses to “Signs of Spring

  1. Cutting up vintage items may not be entirely PC, but I think it is far better having something you will enjoy than something that you don’t want to use but can’t get rid of, that will live out the rest of its life in a drawer.

  2. I love that you made a New memory with an old one…And you made it work in your current world. Its attractive, now usable for you and out of the drawer! Win all around!

  3. jennyklyon

    Beautiful. Tactile. Lovely reminder of spring!

    • Us folks in the northeast need all the encouragement we can find at this time of year when everything outdoors looks so worn out. From the photos of your garden you’ve been enjoying signs of spring for some time.

  4. sandy

    I live on the coast, here in NC. One of the few places that you can still find pussy willows and cattails growing in ditches. I had forgotten about them, being so plentiful in my childhood and so rare now. But they do still grow here in the plentiful wetlands. One of my favorite things to do is browse through old linens in thrift stores. I have a box of my finds in my sewing room and cut them to pieces and use them to embellish all the time. Beautiful job on the pillow. I love it.

    • So glad to hear you’re giving new life to old linens. Often the cloth is too damaged to use for the original intended purpose. And I didn’t know pussy willows were ditch and wetland lovers.

  5. That’s stunning! I admit that I am ambivalent about cutting up intact vintage pieces but at least this is now being used and enjoyed and given a life, where before it was just hidden away and forgotten. You’ve elevated it!

    • Thanks. Yes, after decades in a drawer part of this set is seeing the light. Also, each napkin was a different size, up to a 2 inch difference. Besides, the pillow reminds me of my aunt and her pussy willows.

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