Handmade: Women's handiwork of yesteryear is given new life

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Marti Murdock describes herself as "very contemporary" when it comes to her style of dress, but even she's a bit surprised that many of her sewing projects over the past several years have centered around recycling vintage linens into aprons and fabric covers for hangers, creating frilly reminders of women's handiwork from days of long ago.

Murdock shops for vintage linens at flea markets and estate sales. She uses old pillowcases to make hanger covers, and sheets or pillowcases pieced together to create fancy aprons. She sells her work under the name "Red's Threads," a name inspired by the red hair she shares with her mother, whose nickname was "Red."

"I've heard many times people say, 'I had a whole trunk full (of old linens), and I put them out at the curb.' I like to see items that people have lovingly made repurposed so that another generation can enjoy it. Why go out and buy something made in China?," says the Farmington Hills resident, who's been sewing since high school. "As women, this is our heritage, this is what women did. I think when women do start to get into handiwork, they begin to understand the time that goes into it. I think the big thing now is knitting."

In a world where most gravitate toward all things modern, Murdock's customers are a little different. She describes them as "somebody who appreciates the original work and wants to have a connection to their past." She says her hangers are something they can use for a favorite dress, and she once gave one to a bride as the "something old" for her wedding.

A member of two sewing groups, the American Sewing Guild and the Creative Clothing Club, Murdock says business isn't bad. However, she adds, "I didn't go into this as trying to create a full-time job for myself. It's like most crafts — it has its seasons, but people love them because nobody else in this area does a craft like this."

Murdock's vintage-inspired hangers sell for $15, and her aprons are priced at $20. Both are available at the Victorian Tea Parlor in Berkley and the Livingston Antique Outlet (Booth/Floor No. 54) in Howell.

Here, Murdock shares her instructions for making a hanger cover using a vintage pillowcase.

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

Vintage Inspired Hanger Cover

Level: Beginner

Estimated time: 45 minutes

Tools: Sewing machine, scissors, straight pins, marker, large sheet of heavy paper or stiff non-woven interfacing

Supplies: A vintage pillowcase with lace trim, a padded hanger, thread, choice of vintage-inspired embellishments (tiny bows, ribbon, flowers, etc.)


1. To make template, place hanger on heavy paper or non-woven interfacing. Trace around top of hanger, extending each side about 5 or 6 inches, depending on design of pillowcase.

2. Mark a one-inch-wide notch at top center where hook will go.

3. Pin template to pillowcase, positioning it to allow entire design to be used. Cut out, clipping where notch will be.

4. Turn notched area under and stay-stitch close to edge on each half.

5. Turn pillowcase inside out and stitch a 5/8-inch seam allowance from center down one side and then the other, leaving notched area open.

6. Sew lace edges with a zigzag stitch two or three times to prevent fraying.

7. Turn cover right side out, press, and hand-stitch embellishments in place. Insert hanger.

Contact Red's Threads at (313) 819-0239 or m2marti@sbcglobal.net.