Salvaged Stash: My Mother’s UFOs

Welcome to the next Salvaged Stash article!

My mother taught me how to cross-stitch. When she was in her teens up through her early twenties when I was born, she used to stitch quite frequently. She taught me when I was eight years old, but it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I realized just how many finished pieces adorned the walls of my childhood home. I suddenly realized the pictures I looked at every day for years were actually delicately worked with needle and thread, and I didn’t even notice.

When I was seventeen, I began to really get into cross-stitch on a more serious level. I built up my stash, bought more projects, designated a little craft area in my room… cross-stitch expanded beyond a hobby into a serious passion of mine. I talked to her about her stitching: did she still have anything left from back then? My mother went into her closet and pulled out an old bowling bag she hadn’t touched in years and gave it to me. That brown bowling bag and a flat tan box underneath it were all that remained from her years of stitching.

I expected to find needles, thread, old fabric, maybe a handful of old booklets and magazines that I knew she had. Imagine my surprise to find at least a dozen half-started projects! Some of them were only just started, some of them were half-finished, and one specifically was so close to being finished it must have only had around 50 stitches to go with all the backstitch already finished.

A handful of my mother's UFOs.

A handful of my mother’s UFOs.

Back then I was shocked to see them all, but now I can think on it and laugh. I’ve got a whole box full of projects I started and put down, way more than I found in Mom’s bowling bag. I do plan on finishing them all eventually, and I’m sure she had the same intention. She put the needle down to have kids and raise a family and the projects got lost in the whirlwind of life.

Unlike projects one may find in a thrift store or in a bundle of other things, my mother kept all her work mostly together. I’ve been able to find their charts in booklets or magazines, and have put the projects away in my binder for consideration. Maybe I’ll finish a few of the nearly completed ones and give them to her as gifts. There are a few charts she marked down as ones she would like to do but they were never started. Some projects had stains on the fabric that I could try to get out and clean up and finish for her.

I’ve completed one of those projects so far. The piece “Met My Dad?” was so close to being finished, I sat down one day and finished it for her. I washed it, got out the stains and the wrinkles as best I could, and then framed it for her. This is how it looked before the ironing and the framing:

Here it is, just completed!

Here it is, just completed!

I later wrote a Friday Finishes on it, which explains the piece in more detail: Friday Finishes #21: Met My Dad?

I sometimes wonder what would have happened had my mother not kept any of these things when she decided to give up cross-stitch. The half-started pieces probably would have been thrown away if their charts weren’t paired with them. I’m glad she kept them. These pieces in particular hold more sentimental value for the fact that they are my mother’s projects. Projects that have crossed more than twenty years to come to me to finish and hang them up on the wall. There’s something magical in that. Two generations worked on this project.

Much better than ending up in some landfill somewhere, don’t you think?


Salvaged Stash is a series focused on rescued finishes and the story of how I received them. A lot of people don’t realize what happens to a lot of the treasured finished pieces once their makers have passed or the gift is given away or forgotten. I want to share my stories of the stash I’ve rescued and how I’ve used them. A companion series to the article Save the Stash from the Trash!

Salvaged Stash: A Rescued Paula Vaughan

The signature on today's Salvaged Stash piece.

The signature on today’s Salvaged Stash piece.

Welcome to the second Salvaged Stash article!

This is the one that was meant to be the first article, but I was so excited about the pillow cases I pushed this article to second instead of first. This piece is also what began my Save the Stash from the Trash mantra that sparked the whole ‘revolution’ that’s been going on with me in regards to that. So if you’re ready for an unbelievable origin story, then this is the perfect article for you!

Stitchers be warned: there is horrible stash abuse from non-stitchers in this. It may make you angry. I know I certainly was.

» Read more

Salvaged Stash: Cross Stitch Pillows Cases

The three rescued pillow cases.

The three rescued pillow cases.

Welcome to our first Salvaged Stash article!

So what is Salvaged Stash? Basically, I have a goal to Save the Stash from the Trash, and over the last few years I’ve saved several finished pieces from being thrown away or ending up being used as scraps or storage items. I want to share them with you all, and raise awareness of what happens to these finished pieces over the years once they’re finished being stitched. And remember to save the stash from the trash!

Anyway, our first Salvaged Stash piece is a thriller! It’s not the article I planned to start with, but some new developments made me incredibly excited so I wanted to get this one out first.

» Read more

Save the Stash from the Trash!


Imagine what will happen to your stash once you’re gone. Maybe you’ll be blessed enough to have other stitchers in the family who will take it and maybe finish all those UFOs and WIPs you have lying around. Or maybe you’ll have it set up so your stash will be donated somewhere or otherwise given away to other stitchers you know or to a good cause.

But imagine what happens to the stash for the families of those who have no other crafty people. What will happen to the stash then? The unfinished pieces will probably get thrown away because someone won’t see value in something that isn’t done. Maybe they’ll try to sell the unopened packages of fabric or needles or thread – but it might also be too overwhelming, considering the gigantic size of most stashes. The best option – and the one most families will go with – will be to take all the stash into a local charity or thrift store to let someone else try to sell it all.

As someone who owns a thrift store, has worked in some, and regularly shops at them, I can’t begin to tell you how much amazing cross-stitch stuff I’ve found in thrift stores. I know in a lot of countries DMC thread isn’t cheap, but at my local Joann’s you can get a skein for $0.39 USD (last I checked). Sometime they run sales 3 for $1 or 4 for $1. Well I went to the Goodwill down the street from campus and randomly came across an entire bin full of BOXES of DMC thread in yellow and green. There were 12 skeins to a box and most of the boxes were in good condition with all the skeins inside, and guess how much they were? $1 each. That is $0.08 per skein! Better than any deal you could possibly get in a retail store. Unfortunately they only had two colors but I’ll never run out of yellow and green for that price.

Right above this bin of DMC thread boxes there were unopened packages of needles for less than $0.60 USD. I always just use the free needles that come with kits so I don’t know if they were a certain kind but it was a great price. There were some quilting patterns, yarn, and hoops in the same area as well.

Next door to the Goodwill by campus is Community Thrift Store, which is a smaller building but tends to have stuff Goodwill does not. The wooden embroidery square frames in the stores can run upwards of $50 USD and I found one there (missing one screw) for $4. There was a very pretty unfinished yarn project on it as well I got for free. I also found an unopened cookie jar cross-stitch kit, a hand framed finished piece I’m sure someone made with a lot of love, and several packages of fabric and some more hoops.

There is another store called Yesterdays Memories pretty close to my house that I decided to go in and browse one day. The woman working was very nice and happened to be a stitcher herself! She had bad eyesight and couldn’t see well enough to do it anymore, but offered to bring a whole load of stuff down for me to look at because she was otherwise just going to end up giving it away or throwing it all out.

After we chatted I walked around and found several very cool unopened packages of fabric (two of them were checkered in multiple colors) an old sewing table, a sewing box (I didn’t end up getting either because I didn’t have enough money on me at the time), several wooden and metal hoops, several handmade felt pincushions in 3 different colors (I so wanted one but again, was running low on money), a cross-stitched table runner that was a small hole in one of the corners the owner was going to throw out, several opened kits that still had all the stuff with them, and a Paula Vaughan finished piece called “Something Old, Something New” that had been professionally framed and had been donated by someone who otherwise would’ve just thrown it out because they had no use for it. I mean this piece is enormous, would have taken me several years to finish, was framed professionally, and the original owner was about to throw it out. Well I rescued it, and it’s currently hanging on my wall above my bed.

Paula Vaughan's Something Old, Something New that I rescued from the trash

Paula Vaughan’s Something Old, Something New that I rescued from the trash

I’ve gotten several donations to my own thrift store as well. A child of a woman who passed came by and brought almost all of the woman’s Christmas craft stuff for me to sell. It wasn’t just cross-stitch (although I found hoops and several dated Christmas ornaments) but handmade cloth wreaths, wooden ornaments and decorations, ribbons and bows and all kinds of things. I have a few finished pieces that a woman said was given to her by her grandmother after her grandmother passed but she didn’t want them. I have really cool looking needlework tapestries (they were manufactured in Belgium, but they still look cool!). I have a large amount of chart books for cross-stitch, needlepoint, and embroidery, along with thread and hoops. All donation stuff.

I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion in my Facebook groups about the New Year and how people want to stop buying new charts, fabric, etc., because their stashes are so large. Not that I disagree, I believe in using what you have before getting something new, but I also have an opinion on buying stash. If it’s possible, find a thrift store near you and buy any stash stuff you find from there! Because it is unbelievable how much good, gently used or even unopened stitching supplies can be found because people give them away. And guess what happens if nobody buys it? It ends up in the trash! And especially if you find finished pieces, buy them. Save them. You know how many hours we stitchers put into our pieces, sometimes thousands of hours, but people who don’t understand will literally want to toss them out thinking they’re worthless. The piece I have above my bed was probably worth thousands of dollars to the person who made it and I got it for less than $15.

Buying from the retail chains and your local needlework shops and your online stores are very important – after all, buying charts or kits or fabric shows the commercial industry that there is a market in cross-stitch and people will buy if you have something to sell. That why Wal-Mart recently brought back its stitching section for the first time in years (I know because when I first got back into cross-stitch I couldn’t find anything anywhere until I went to Joann’s). But when I know, and have personal experience, that there is a lot of beautiful and gently used stash items and unfinished and finished pieces lying around in thrift stores or charities that are going to be thrown away if people don’t buy them, I get very upset knowing it’s all going to go to waste.

Please, if the option is available to you, save the stash from the trash! Don’t let non-stitchers and anyone else who doesn’t understand what we do just toss away those things that are so precious to us! Shop at thrifts stores or charities, go to estate sales and garage sales, look for stash where you can find it, and save it! It is always cheaper than what you can get from big chain stores like Joann’s and Michael’s and DMC. And think of the fact that some of it might not even be in production anymore! That nice package of aida fabric you found might have come from a company that went out of business 20 years ago. Or that kit is extremely rare because it’s completely out of production. You might never find another thing like it again, and if you don’t buy it, no one else will be able to see it either because it’ll get thrown away.

Save the stash from the trash!


“Random Corner” is a place for all articles related to all manners of cross-stitchery and the cross-stitch community that don’t fall into the topics covered in the regular weekly schedule. There is no set schedule for Random Corner articles, they’re just random!