Uncommon Sources

by Mary Boalt

As a lover of textiles and all things fabric, I find inspiration in all sorts of places. You probably do too. When I was introduced to piecing garments together, it opened up a whole new world to me. Fabric didn’t have to come by the yard from the fabric store. Cost Plus World Market and it’s beautiful array of cloth napkins became a primary source of a new kind of fabric hoarding. I still check them out from time to time. And I never leave a thrift store without checking out the men’s ties. Especially Jerry Garcia ties. Already cut on the bias, they make great piping, cording or just flat bias tape which can be used in a Koos Van Den Akker style. And of course, we’ve all been tempted by upholstery  fabric. Sometimes with more success than other times.

I thought  I’d share a few of my garments incorporating fabric from uncommon sources. First, IKEA. This is a linen drapery panel with a wild contemporary print. This Vogue pattern has been used many MANY times over the years. Added to it are some plain and striped t shirt knits for the pockets, sleeve interest and back flap definition.img_3468img_3467img_3499Sticking to the drapery panel theme, let’s drive over to Cost Plus World Market. This is a skirt that was blogged about last summer. The perfect summer lightweight cotton crinkle skirt. They are still being sold and come in a cute little matching bag. No need for a pattern with this skirt. Just cut two rectangles, sew together and insert elastic around the waist. And no need to hem. Just use the one provided.img_3474img_3475

And now over in the accessories department we find kantha scarves. Two of them made this summer weight vest. The pattern is now available in a downloadable version. Is downloadable a word? As I’m writing this it just doesn’t sound quite right. img_3476

There was just enough left to make a small pocket. The armhole edges and neck were finished with purchased bias tape.


Down the street is Target. This piece, also previously blogged about, came about from a “challenge” our local sewing group initiated. Could we make something  from dish towels? YES! Target had these adorable soft cotton dish towels. After stocking up with five towels, the hems were removed and there was enough fabric to accommodate the pattern pieces.img_3469img_3464

This next one is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. You know how wallpaper books come with matching fabric samples in them? This was just the fabric samples. I found this discarded book with a beautiful cover at a recycling store. The samples inside were beautiful, all coordinating. They got mixed with some dupioni silk scraps, hand stitching and a butter soft suede cloth.img_3479img_3481img_3483img_3484

The next two garments come from my desire to be Diane Ericson in my next life. Made from a textured suede cloth, my bar stools were once covered in this fabric.img_3488img_3489img_3490img_3485

These stencils are available to be used when you attend my Zephyr Retreat classes. Along with about fifty others.


Here’s another idea from Diane; using socks as a collar. Well, these aren’t socks but they looked like socks when I saw them. On sale at a local boutique, these are fingerless gloves. Along with some scraps from my sister, these gloves found their home in this jacket.img_2516img_2517img_3493img_3498img_3492img_3494

Because I regularly thin my closet, I no longer have the dresses I’ve made from bed sheets and cotton shower curtains or the jackets from Kantha bedspreads….Sandra now owns the “bird” shower curtain dress, also from Cost Plus World Market.  Ask to see it sometime.  While reviewing these uncommon sources of fabric, I realized almost all of my wardrobe has a “story”. The next blog will be about the uncommon hardware and trims used in some of the pieces. What unusual things have you been able to sew into your clothes? Do they bring you joy? Are you proud of your resourcefulness and the ability to make your clothes unique? I hope you are and continue to look in unlikely places for inspiration. But please share! I want to know your sources!

I want to give a huge shout out and a hearty congratulations to Heidi Emmett on her newly published book Fashion Quilted Accessories. If you’d like to pick up your copy and have Heidi sign it, there will be a book signing at Sugar Pine Quilt shop in Grass Valley on Saturday March 11 from 11:00-1:00. I can’t wait to get mine to see all the goodies she’s been keeping secret these past many months. Way to go Heidi!!!!


24 thoughts on “Uncommon Sources

  1. Wow! You’re truly a creative person. Just this morning, I was looking at my favorite tea towel from Cost Plus, thinking I must emulate it. It’s ten years old and one of my favorite things to use in my kitchen. Thanks for the inspiration, and your sewing skills are fantastic.

    • Thank you Doran. And sometimes I see quilts that make me want to take up quilting!! Just not enough time for all our interests, eh?

  2. Oh you are not alone in wanting to come back as Diane Erickson. lol I usually just stick to yardage at the fabric store, now I have a whole new way of looking at textiles.

    • Hi Anny. Diane is amazing. I’ve had the privilege of taking several of her classes. She’s so generous with ideas and information. One of her sources for fabric are thrift stores. She takes garments apart and uses pieces of them. I remember something she said once. If you don’t have enough yardage for your project, it forces you to get creative. As a result, I have a large stash of scraps!

    • Hi Virlene. I just used black acrylic paint. That was so long ago. Although it’s not stiff, now I would probably add some textile medium to the paint. Spraying the back of the stencil with some non permanent basting spray helps keep such a detailed stencil as those in place. And you don’t need much paint at all.

    • Thanks Christine. You should start with the Vogue top. It’s easy and lends itself to being pieced very easily. And with cottons too!

    • Well, pretty soon you will have seen my total closet and then I’ll have nothing to blog about!! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the shower curtain bird dress. It’s so cute on you.

  3. Mary your work is always elegant and very well executed. I especially like the Tea towel shirt. I also am a Diane fan but I you are my inspiration. Love your work. Terry

  4. Love this post (actually enjoy them all). I particularly like the Vogue pattern, V 8090. I looked at both the Vogue and Etsy websites and couldn’t find it. Do you have any suggestions on where to buy one?
    Carole Pirruccello

  5. Mary, I LOVE your work! So creative. Where do you purchase your patterns? I see a couple are Vogue, but where do I find “The Sewing Workshop”, Diane Erikson’s patterns?

    • Thank you, Donna. If you google The Sewing Workshop you will find their website. The same with Diane, it’s

      I don’t know where you live, but Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley carry these patterns. In fact, they are now only carrying independent pattern makers. But I usually order these patterns online. Be sure to sign up for their emails and blogs. Diane does not write very regularly but when she does, it’s full of good information and pictures. We love that!

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