Appliques Inspired by Another Time

Wende Craig’s story is a tale of stitchery and serendipity that spurred a career.

Her mother taught her to sew 43 years ago.  As a teen, she saw one of her friends doing appliqué, and tried her hand.  A little later, one of her wood-working brothers gave her a catalog from a 1910 show featuring the work of William Morris, Gustav Stickley and Greene & Greene.

“I went gaga!” she said.  “Something sang to me, and I started investigating textiles from that era.”

She persuaded her mother to give her a Kenmore sewing machine, and never looked back.

The work of William Morris is her big inspiration, mostly because it’s so intricately patterned, and difficult to mass produce.  She also finds delight in Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs – because she’s drawn to work with an archaic feel to it.  “I was born to the wrong century,” she said.  “I should have been one of the king’s embroiderers.”

She works from historic and timeless patterns founds in books and online, manipulating them with hand embroidery to make them her own.  Her palette in earth- and jewel-tones are applied in silk, velvet, cotton and canvas.  And her work finds its way onto pillows, bedding, clothes, upholstery, draperies and window treatments.

She eschews computer modeling, preferring to start with a hand sketch.  She blows that up and traces it onto an inner lining, which is in turn glued onto her material of choice.  The material is cut out, basted and then satin stitched onto the end product.  Each finished piece contains three to four layers of materials.

A native of the Bay area, her most challenging assignment came from an invitation to participate in the Pasadena Showcase.  Asked to execute an asymmetrical design, she hesitated.  “I think in a symmetrical way, and I thought that I couldn’t do that,” she said.  “But I woke up in the middle of the night and a light bulb went off, and I had it.  I got up, drew it, and it came out perfectly.”

Like her career, it was as though it were meant to be, all along.

For more on Wende Cragg’s work, go to

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