Sew, What's New?

Curating sewing and quilting talent, techniques, and tutorials, since 1997.

A holiday project to give new life to old treasures

Old pieces of cloth can give us a powerful connection with those we love. They have a patina and a story to tell — maybe about the person who used them or created them in another time.

From old neckties and embroidered tea towels to garments and tablecloths, I am drawn to old fabrics, and folding them into my sewing is one way to keep the connection with family and friends intact, especially while celebrating the holidays.

My Christmas box used to contain a very used and worn tablecloth that belonged to my Mormor (grandmother in Swedish). It still reminds me of holiday gatherings, and all the stains recall memorable smorgasbords on Christmas Eve. I used to take it out each year and remember her, then put it back in the box.

This year I made a noren from that cloth to hang in my kitchen. It makes me smile as I enjoy memories of being in the kitchen while she cooked for us.

A noren is a short curtain with a slit in the middle that invites a peek inside and passage through a doorway.

This small curtain originated in Japan as a cloth that was hung outside of a shop to indicate the store was open. The design, still used today, feels welcoming and is very easy to make.

It can be made of sheer or densely woven fabric, and it can be any length from 9 to 48 inches, covering just the top or most of the doorway opening.

Creating your own noren

You may want to create norens to welcome each season or holiday during the year.

Diane Ericson is an Ashland artist who teaches workshops and retreats. She is the designer and illustrator for a line of sewing patterns and art stencils; she makes jewelry, clothing and accessories and stencils chairs in her studio in the Ashland Art Center. Visit her Web site at

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