How to Repurpose Family Heirlooms: Grandma Beatrice’s Doilies

 

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My Grandma Beatrice used to crochet doilies.  She put them on her coffee table, end tables, on top of her TV, on night stands…she would even drape them across the back of her couches and chairs.  Maybe your grandma did something similar too.

Our family inherited some of her collection when she passed away, but what does one do with them?

I decided that I wanted to use her doilies in a new way that would be artsy and still honour her work.  I remembered seeing doilies online that were placed inside wooden embroidery hoops.  I thought I’d give it a try.

Here are the steps in case you would like to try something similar:

 

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  1. Buy some wooden embroidery hoops.  I bought mine from Michael’s for just under $3.00 each.  You can find them at any crafting store or Walmart.

    I bought three to start because to me things look better in odd numbers.  I also chose three different sizes for variety.

 

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2. Find some fabric.  I pulled some wool and polyester blends from my fabric stash.  One grey wool was from a skirt I bought from Value Village (which is the best place to go for wool.  Don’t buy it from a fabric store.  It’s so expensive.)  I chose wool because I wanted to use something thicker to keep the backing stiff but I think anything would work as long as you keep it taunt.

 

 

3. Set your doilies on top of different coloured fabrics to see which colour combination you like the best.

 

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4. Once you have chosen your pieces, place your hoop on top of your fabric.  Cut a square around it, leaving about 2 inches of material out from the hoop.  You could probably cut less.  I just found it was easier to have more fabric to hold onto when I was trying to pull the fabric taunt or when I was doing the final trimming.  You don’t want to cut it too close to the hoop and have it slide out between your hoop pieces.

 

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The smallest hoop is beneath the layer of fabric and doily in this photo.

5. Loosen the screw at the top of your wooden hoop and separate the two pieces. Place the small hoop down on a flat surface.  Put your square of fabric on top.  Now place your doily on top of your fabric and try to center it as much as possible.

Now place your larger hoop on top of all layers and press down.  The large hoop will fit around the smaller one, catching the fabric in between the two.    Just watch that your doily doesn’t shift in the process.  Keep it centered.

 

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6. Once you have it in the desired placement, tighten the screw as much as you can.

 

 

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7. You might find that your fabric puckers.  This is an easy fix without removing the hoops.  With one hand taking a piece of the fabric and the other putting pressure down on the hoop, gently pull the fabric towards you.  This will pull the fabric taunt without popping the hoop off.

 

9. Flip your doily over.  You will now cut off the excess fabric and doily as close to the wooden hoop as possible.  Don’t cut them both at the same time.  It’s easier to cut through the material and get a closer cut when doing it one at a time.  Start with you fabric first, then your doily.

I found it really hard to cut the doily.  It felt like I was destroying what my grandma had made.  I also felt like I was wasting doily because I really liked the intricate designs along the edges.

 

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I decided to keep what I cut off.  I’m going to incorporate it into another project in some way.  I might use it as a collar if I sew a dress for our daughter, Charlie.  It could also make for cute trim on an apron for baking.  In the end, I just told myself that it was better to reuse her work in a new way than have it sitting in a bag unseen.

 

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10. To finish off the piece, I put some No Fray along my cut edges.  You don’t have to.  I did it because I don’t want the doilies to come apart if I decide to take them out at a later time and use them in another way.   No Fray acts like a glue, sealing loose threads.  You can buy it from Walmart, Fabricland, or any crafting store.

 

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Ta-da!  I have the beginnings of a new gallery wall.  I hope to make some more and maybe incorporate some other textile work (e.g., hand stitching or fabric mementos).  I plan to put them up in my Lainie Room one day.

 

 

 

 

 

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Grandma Beatrice and I, and her little dog, Muffin.

 

As an aside,

I wouldn’t put doilies around my house like grandma did, but I totally appreciate the craftsmanship.  They are beautiful. They are intricate and I like the geometric designs.  I also admire anyone who has the patience to make all of those tiny stitches by hand.  And most importantly, these doilies were made by her.

We can actually hold onto something grandma made.  I was in grade 6 when she passed away and my dad was only in his early 30s when he lost his mom.  She was the one who took care of my brother and I when we had chicken pox.  She gave me my first cup of coffee (with lots of sugar!) and she made the best monster cookies.

Her doilies were divided amongst family members.  My parents have an entire bag of them inside our family hope chest.  So when I was home this past Christmas, I went through the bag looking for some pieces to keep.

 

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I loved seeing her handwriting on the price tags (she used to sell them).  I asked Dad if I could also keep her half used ball of crochet yarn.  I think it’s neat that her hands once held this.  I’m such a mush ball.

 

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It’s fun to take something old and make it new again.  But how do you know which items to repurpose?  FamilySearch.org suggests that you choose items that hold sentimental value and tell family stories.  They also need to make sense logistically for you to preserve.

If you are thinking that you would like to try something new with a few pieces you have, you might also consider passing it by family members first before you start cutting or making alterations.  We all have different attachments to objects; each tells a story.

 

“We all carry inside us, people who came before us.”  -Liam Callanan