Large bundles of fabric is what retired Detroit Public School teacher Patricia L. Millender brought back from her rather recent trips to South Africa and Ghana.

"This past February, I traveled to Ghana and brought back a suitcase full of fabric, and two years before that, I went to South Africa and brought back a suitcase full of fabric. I traveled with my church and we took, like, 50 people to Ghana and 60 people to South Africa," says the Detroit resident, who's been a member of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit for 25 years.

Serving as current vice president of the Great Lakes African American Quilters Network, Millender uses ethnic printed material to create colorful quilts, quilted wall-hangings and reversible aprons made with fabric strips.

Working under her business name, "Clay and Cloth Creations," Millender, also a 25-year ceramic artist, says she mainly does the "art fair circuit" where she sells her smaller quilted pieces and ceramics. "I don't really sell bed size quilts at these shows," she says. Her made-to-order quilted bed covers range from $500-$700 each, while her smaller items start at $20.

Millender's inspiration for quilting stems from its "calming affect." She says, "Since I no longer practice interior design, it allows me to connect with the things I liked most about being in interior design, which was fabric and color."

Here, Millender shares her pattern for making one of her pieced aprons, which she sells for $25-$75. Unlike her quilts, the back of the aprons are not pieced, however, she says, "A person can wear the backside while cooking and turn the right side over when guests arrive. That's why they have a higher price point."

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or For more craft news and giveways, visit her blog at

Easy Strip Pieced Apron

Level: Advanced beginner

Estimated time: 11/2 hours

Tools: Sewing machine, iron, scissors, straight pins, rotary cutter, mat, plastic ruler

Supplies: 1 spool 5/8-inch grosgrain ribbon, 5 fat quarters (18 by 21 inches), 3/4 yards quilting fabric, spray starch


Note: (All seam allowances should be 1/4 inch.)

1. Spray all 5 fat quarters with starch and press. Set one aside for back of bib and inside pocket.

2. Cut one 3-by-21-inch strip from each of the 4 fat quarters. Put two strips with right sides together and sew along long side. Add additional strip until all four are sewn together. Spray with starch and press all seams in same direction.

3. Cut strip into two pieces, one for bib (11 by 13 inches) and one for pocket (11 by 8 inches). Use remaining fat quarter to cut a piece to match bib (11 by 13 inches) and one to match pocket (11 by 8 inches).

4. Put right sides of pocket pieces together and sew along three sides. Turn inside out and press. Turn edges of open side inward 1/4 inch, top-stitch closed, press and set aside.

5. Put right sides of bib pieces together and sew three sides, leaving 13-inch side open. Turn inside out and iron. Turn unsewn horizontal side inward about 1/4 inch and topstitch closed, leaving one-inch opening at beginning and end. Insert one end of a 23-inch neck ribbon into each opening. Sew closed. (Strips should be horizontal.) Use pin to mark center of bib at bottom.

6. Fold 3/4-yard material in half with right sides together (22 by 27 inches). Sew both 22-inch sides closed. Turn inside out and press. Turn unsewn side inside 1/2 inch and press. Find center of turned down side and mark with pin.

7. Position bottom of bib in large bottom piece. Line up pins that mark center. Pin two pieces together and sew closed along top.

8. To add pocket, place on bottom piece about 6 inches from waist, just right of center. Place lines on vertical. Sew sides and bottom, leaving top open.

9. Add bottom side straps by opening side seams at waist about 1 inch. Insert a 28-inch ribbon strap and sew closed.

10. For added durability, sew 1/2-inch seam around entire bottom of apron.

Contact Clay and Cloth Creations at or (313) 418-9757.

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