Vintage Inspiration: New Zealand Basket Pillow


Left, New Zealand Basket Pillow; Right, Our reproduction of the pillow’s embroidery design.

Editor’s Note: From Dec. 8-19, we’ll be celebrating the holiday season in a number of fun ways — from project tutorials to gift ideas and more. We’ll also keep you in the loop about our 12 Days of Deals sale happening in our online store, so be sure to check back each day for all the updates!

We’ve featured a lot of great offers in our “12 Days of Deals” sale these last few days, but today’s offer may just be my favorite. You can build your own Vintage Heirloom Collection choosing from a variety of books and machine embroidery CDs from the “Martha Pullen’s Favorite Places” series and “The Vintage Collection of Martha Pullen” series. For those of you unfamiliar with these collections, the “Martha Pullen’s Favorite Places” series has explored the special antiques showcased at museums like The Kent State Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood and the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum. Meanwhile, “The Vintage Collection of Martha Pullen” series has profiled many heirlooms from Martha Pullen’s personal vintage collection. Both book series offer a fascinating look at garments and other heirlooms from days gone by, and the coordinating embroidery CDs include reproductions of the vintage designs featured on the antiques.

This gorgeous New Zealand Basket Pillow was featured in The Vintage Collection of Martha Pullen Part II book; the embroidery design is included in the Vintage Machine Embroidery Collection 2, Part 2. Below read Martha’s description and personal account of discovering this antique pillow, as shared in the book:

New Zealand Basket Pillow, New Zealand, circa 1920

On my first trip to New Zealand, I was thrilled to be the main presenter at a sewing conference. I simply adore this country. I like to think that when God had just about finished making the whole world, he took gorgeous little pieces he had left over from everywhere and put them all in one place – New Zealand. The enchantment of New Zealand’s scenic beauty is only surpassed by the hospitality of the people. It is beyond Southern hospitality, and they express such gratitude when international visitors come to teach.

My friend Gloria McKinnon arranged the trip, and before we traveled to Wellington for our conference, she asked me if I would like to take a little side trip to the most exclusive little doll-making shop, which also carried antique linens. Needless to say, she didn’t have to twist my arm. When we arrived at this tiny shop in Auckland, it was a dream come true. Little groups of dolls were everywhere in doll carriages, little chairs, sitting on little sofas and behind little dressers in front of mirrors. Silk clothing, antique clothing, antique dolls, Marie Massey dolls (these I collect), which are so tiny and have even tinier little accessories to go with each doll – it was truly a doll wonderland.

After I purchased a Marie Massey doll, I began to sort through the antique linens finding this simple (but rather ragged) pillow. The embroidered basket in the center is simply magnificent with padded satin stitch for the bow and flowers. Stem stitches create the leaves and more double stem stitches serve as the curved part of the handle of the basket. Threads are woven through netting to make the crosses on the basket. The center embroidered square is 8-1/2-inches square. The netting row is 1-1/4-inches wide; the outside linen piece is 1-1/2-inches wide. Both the netting piece and the outer linen piece are mitered at the corners. The gathered netting ruffle, which is rolled and whipped to the pillow edges is 1-inch wide. The inner pillow slips in through one entire end of the pillow, which has been left open. There are three snaps to close the pillow. The linen in the center of the pillow is attached with buttonhole stitching to the mitered pieces of netting surrounding the centerpiece. The second piece of linen is attached in the same manner using the buttonhole stitch. When I think of the amount of hand needlework that went into this pillow, I was reminded of a snippet from the Modern Priscilla, December, 1911, which read:

“Some people are annoyed by having their needles become sticky while sewing; this is overcome by washing the hands frequently with soap, and running the needle through the thickest part of your hair, where it is coiled or twisted; odd? Yes, but try.” 

~Martha Pullen


Shop all items included in the “Build Your Own Bundle” offer here! Add two or more included items to your cart and save 50 percent (price will reflect in your cart).

Happy Sewing,



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