Halloween Vintage Embroidery

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I’m continuing with projects that use vintage embroidery and lots of autumn-colored scraps.  I found this free pattrn online and made it into a place mat.

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I embroidered another vintage pattern and added fabric to make a Halloween pillow.

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The scary, feathered owl was a birthday gift from my younger granddaughter who liked it so well that she bought one for herself.

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I made a pillow set for my vintage folding chair.  This design is based on a Helan Barrick decorative painting pattern that I first used about 25 years ago.

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It’s fun to take the embroidered pieces and figure out what I can do with them, using scraps and reducing the amount of leftover fabric I have to store.

A Doll’s Halloween Party

When I came out to the kitchen this morning, I found that my vintage doll table was set for a Halloween party.  There was a pumpkin and skull, a plateful of candy apples, cookies with bat and jack o’lantern designs and mugs for cider.

There was even a pretty black luncheon cloth with an orange crocheted edging.

My oldest daughter who lives with me had fashioned these tiny dishes out of clay (the plate of apples is about the size of a quarter) and made the little luncheon cloth.  All we need now are some miniature trick or treaters.

Time for Halloween in my October Kitchen

I love to get out all of the vintage, collectible and handmade items for my October kitchen.  On the window sill there is a pumpkin that my mother had 30 years ago, some funny S’More figures in costume and my oldest daughter’s hand-stitched tea towel.

The shelves at the side of the window hold crafted pieces by both daughters.

In the bay window is a painted witch that goes back over 20 years to my decorative arts days.

There is a picture embroidered by my oldest daughter and two wall hangings I made in my early days of quilting.

The top of the big set of shelves holds my painted haunted house and some vintage candles….

…on the middle shelf is a miniature chair I painted along with candlesticks made by my youngest daughter, and some pieces made by my oldest daughter, including some felted wool figures.

I love this decoration my oldest daughter made from an old woman’s shoe.  Remember when grandma wore this type of shoe?

In this case, it’s the “Witch’s Night Out” and she has everything she needs for a good time – an invitation to the dance, a fan, a mask and feathers, beads, her dance card, and her “Eau de Lizard”.

All I have to do is get a big bag of candy for the trick or treaters and I’m ready.

A Happy Scrap Gift Bag

Influenced by my youngest daughter, our family made a pledge several years ago to go green by having all of our gift bags be of reusable fabric.  It takes a lot of bags, especially at Christmas time, but at least three branches of the family have been able to stick to the pledge.  The bags are either returned to the giver or are kept for the next occasion.

I wanted to make a different sized bag to hold the Halloween gifts I had gotten for my daughter and wanted to use as much as possible of my huge scrap collection and anything else that could be recycled.

I found two old dinner napkins (16×16 inches) which were very worn around the edges.

I pulled out a big bag of scraps of various sizes in fall colors – orange, rust, yellow, dark red, maroon, green.  I wanted to use an old piecing technique that uses a lot of small scraps and started out with a small piece in the center of one of the napkins (scrap piece right-side-up on wrong side of the napkin).   Then, I put another small scrap on top of the first piece, forming an angle.

I stitched a 1/4 inch seam, trimmed and pressed the piece open….

…then sewed a piece across the bottom of the first two pieces, log-cabin-style.

I continued around the sides of the block, trimming and pressing each time after stitching.   I continued to sew strips until the napkin was filled.  I put the strips at different angles to get a wonky look.

I turned the piece over, trimmed the excess fabric around the edges and squared-up the piece.  I also trimmed off the worn hemmed edges of the napkin.

Using the completed piece as a pattern, I placed it on top of the second napkin and cut the napkin the same size to form the back of the bag.  A piece of recycled cord was sewn to the right-side of the back piece.

The front and back were stitched with a 1/2 inch seam along the sides and back.  Then I stitched a facing to the top portion of the bag, turned it to the inside and hand-stitched in place.

The bag was turned and pressed….

…and was ready for filling with something good – and for recycling many, many times.

Grandma Mary’s Doughnut Balls


When I met my future mother-in-law in 1951, she introduced me to her very popular Doughnut Balls.  She told me that when her four kids were little, she would get up early in the morning and make these treats before her husband went off to work so he could have some fresh and warm for breakfast and the kids could eat some later when they woke up.  Actually, the recipe is easy and quick enough to do just that.  I never made them for her son for breakfast because he preferred bacon and eggs, but I did make them many times for my own four children and my mother loved them for lunch with a cup of hot coffee.

Here’s a 1950s picture of my mother-in-law, later known as Grandma Mary, at her familiar place in the kitchen, getting a meal ready for her family.

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For our first Halloween together as a married couple in 1953 before there were any children, I decided to make special treats for the “beggars” as we called them in those days.  When I was a child out begging one Halloween, word had come along the street that someone was handing out hot doughnuts.  We raced up to the house only to find they had run out, but I always thought that sounded like an ideal Halloween treat.  So, using a wedding gift electric deep fryer, I set up an operation near the door, mixing up batches of Grandma Mary’s recipe and offering piping hot, sugary Doughnut Balls to some very surprised trick or treaters.  I had also made a huge batch of hot chocolate and passed out small paper cups of this to wash down the doughnuts.

I was very pleased with my Halloween treat idea but by the next year, I had a six-month-old baby and after that there were more children and less time, so I never duplicated that 1953 Halloween.  However, we still enjoy having these Doughnut Balls for breakfast and I think of Grandma Mary every time I make them.


  • Servings: 2-3 doz. doughnut balls, depending on size
  • Print

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tblsp. melted Crisco shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • Crisco for deep frying
  • 1-2 cups of confectioners’ sugar for coating

In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, milk, egg and melted shortening.  In a separate small bowl mix together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Combine dry and wet ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Heat Crisco shortening to 365 degrees F in a large pan with a fryer basket*.  Drop batter by teaspoonful into hot shortening – 4 to 5 doughnuts at a time.  Fry for 3-4 minutes.  Doughnut balls will flip over and become golden brown on both sides.

*If you don’t have a basket, lift and turn doughnuts with a slotted spoon.


Drain doughnuts on a paper towel.


Continue frying remaining doughnuts, placing the drained doughnuts in a brown paper sack along with about a cup of confectioners’ sugar and shaking until doughnuts are coated. 


I’ve never had time to count how many doughnut balls this recipe makes since it requires fast work for a few minutes, frying, draining and coating – and anyone who is in the kitchen grabs a warm doughnut as soon as it’s finished.  These are best when eaten while still warm.



Update: It’s a long time since 1953 and a different world.  I wouldn’t recommend having children eat anything homemade by people they don’t know.  But Doughnut Balls and hot chocolate would be nice for a family Halloween party!

Primitive Stuffed Pumpkin


I’m not an accomplished craft person, but I was able to make some cute stuffed pumpkins from a free pattern on Quilt in a Day, (see update below) called the Fall Pumpkin Patch.  There’s a small amount of sewing involved, and then some winding of jute twine and gluing of silk leaves.  I used some white chenille salvaged from a damaged vintage bedspread, but any type of fabric could be used.  The size and shape of the pumpkin depends on the amount of fabric used and good directions are given.  I gave a pumpkin to each of my daughters for Halloween, with the thought that they could stay on display through Thanksgiving.


Update:  It was brought to my attention that the free pattern apparently is no longer available on Quilt-in-a-Day.  My personal instructions are below:

Supplies Needed:

  • 1/4 yd. pieces or fat quarters or any size pieces of fabric for the pumpkin
  • Green, brown or orange pipe cleaners
  • Tacky glue
  • Raffia strands
  • Jute twine
  • 2″ wooden stems from tree branches
  • Fall silk leaves – 2-3 per pumpkin

All of the pumpkins are made from rectangles.  They can be any size you like (9″x18″, 9″x21″, 7″x17″, etc.).  According to the dimensions they will come out short and fat or tall and skinny.

Fold rectangle in half, right sides together.  Leave a long tail of thread as you begin to sew and stitch a 1/4″ seam down the side of the rectangle.  Leave another long tail of thread attached after you finish sewing.

With a hand sewing needle, thread one tail into the needle and gather up one end of the tube from the wrong side of the fabric, 1/8″ from the bottom edge.  In other words, sew a straight line across one end 1/8″ from the edge.  Pull tightly and knot off.  Turn tube to right side.

Stuff the pumpkin with polyester stuffing or batting scraps.  With the hand sewing needle and thread tail at the other end of the pumpkin, sew a straight line across 1/8″ from the edge, pull tightly and  knot off.   The opening will be covered by the silk leaves.

Using Jute twine, leave an 8″ tail.  Starting from the top of the pumpkin, wind down the sides on the seam line to the bottom, back to the top on the other side, then turn slightly and do it again, leaving thumb or finger on top to keep twine in place.  Make 6 or 8 ridges.  Tie a knot tightly at the top and then a bow.

To decorate, glue a wooden stem into the top center opening withTacky glue.  Wind the pipe cleaner around a pencil and fold in half.  Glue the pipe cleaner into the opening.  Make a bow out of raffia and glue into the opening.  Glue 2-3 leaves to the top to cover the opening.

Display with pride.

Halloween in the 1940s


Until I was 11 years old, we lived in a third-floor flat in downtown Cincinnati.  Those were the war years when any kind of housing was hard to get and we were lucky to have a large apartment that looked out on the huge Court Street Market.  On market day, tents took up the entire wide street and the sellers hawked their fresh produce in loud voices.  We were within walking distance of every major movie theater in downtown Cincinnati, numerous 5 & 10 cent stores and large department stores.  Those were advantages but the disadvantages were not being able to enjoy small town or suburban activities such as beggar’s night or penny night or the big Halloween celebration itself.  I understand huge crowds gathered on Halloween night on Fountain Square but they were for older people and considered too rowdy by my parents for two little girls.

We dressed up in costume for our Halloween party at school and once I was invited to a friend’s nearby apartment for a party for the girls in our class, but otherwise Halloween passed by pretty much unnoticed.  Occasionally, a scraggly little boy would make his way up three flights of stairs to beg for pennies but begging (or trick or treating as it was later known) was not an activity that we knew anything about.


When we moved to the East End of Cincinnati in 1943, it was like going to a small town where there were a lot of German, Irish, Hungarian and black families, neat small houses with tidy gardens and BEGGAR’S NIGHT.  I wasn’t at all sure about this new event that all the kids in school were looking forward to.  The thought of traipsing up and down the streets, in and out of strangers’ houses, asking for candy just seemed so strange.  But my friends were all going out, my little sister wanted to go and surprisingly my parents agreed, so out we went.  We had orders from our parents to not even look into the saloons along the way, let alone go in one, but otherwise we were free to tramp up and down steps, go into the houses if invited and to come home with a bag stuffed with candy, gum and apples.  Nothing was prepackaged in those days and we were grateful for wrapped candy like peanut butter kisses which didn’t get all gummed up with everything else in the bag.


I remember one year when word was passed from one gang of kids to the other that someone was giving out hot doughnuts.  By the time we made it to the house, they were out of doughnuts but I loved the idea.  In 1953, my first year giving out treats as a married woman, I used my wedding gift deep fryer to make homemade doughnuts and gave them out to amazed visitors.  And I had plenty so I wouldn’t run out before the last beggar.

I never was quite comfortable with the affair, but my sister loved it and I continued to go begging until she was old enough to go alone with her own friends.   Now, I’ve been through the trick or treat years with 4 children and 4 grown grandchildren and this Halloween, I’m looking forward to throwing some candy into the bags of my two youngest grandchildren, aka the Mummy and Glynda, the Good Witch.


Halloween Quilted Wall Hangings

When I started quilting about 5 years ago, this wall hanging was one of my early efforts.  My daughter did the hand quilting on it, since I do no hand quilting myself and wasn’t too good at machine quilting at that time. 


The second wall hanging was made about a year later and I did the machine quilting on this one.  This hanging won a blue ribbon at our county fair.


The third hanging also won a blue ribbon at our county fair and was made 2 years ago.  I used the same cat and moon motif to make a vest for myself, which also won at the fair.


All three pieces were appliqued using the fusing method (I’m also not good at needle turned applique).  They didn’t take long to make and are cheerful additions to my Halloween decor.


Halloween Around the House


Thanks to the creative efforts of my two daughters, I have Halloween decorations all around the house – on walls, shelves, chairs – just about every surface.  The oldest daughter made the wreath and the three items that are on my piano – the scottie pumpkin is new this year.  Her blog at Salmagundi Express describes exactly how she carved and painted this pumpkin.  


Some more of her work:








The youngest daughter made the little Dracula and pumpkin man along with the door handle piece when she was a teenager.  She also made the cute candle holders.



Her main handiwork now is crocheting the most gorgeous afghans and I have one for every occasion.  She also contributes a large number of these every year to the local Linus Project.


I love to look around my house and see so many beautiful things that my daughters have made for me over the years.