Finishing the Unfinished

by | Mar 19, 2010 | Sewing, Tutorials | 60 comments

I’m not good at decorating marathons.  I’m much more of a sprinter.  I like projects that I can complete in a couple of hours, maybe days.  I don’t do months or years.  I want instant gratification, which is why I’m a painter, not a quilter.  So when I found a couple of unfinished needlepoints in my grandparent’s attic, I knew they were destined to a life where they would be rolled up in a closet, only to be stared at with good intentions every few months. 

I received some huge 24″x24″ down pillows for Christmas that also remained unfinished due to my indecision about where to use them and how to cover them. 
During my most recent session of staring at the needlepoints, I realized they were the perfect size for the pillows.  Could it work?  Does it matter that they’re unfinished?  The fabric was very stiff, smelly and dusty, so they had to be washed before I could use them for anything.
One of my rules about vintage and antique linens is it has to be washable.  I never spend a lot of money on them, so if they fall apart in the wash I haven’t lost a fortune.  These were free and doomed to a life of not being used, so it was worth a shot.  I washed them in the machine on gentle and pinned them on the line to dry.  The wash shrunk the fabric just enough to make the weave tight and soft.  It also was clean and smelled nice.
I used a vintage linen table cloth to back the needle points as well as for piping and the pillow back. 
I don’t even mind the areas where the fabric is frayed a little bit.
Can you believe these are unfinished needle points?  I think I like them better this way.  They are more neutral and casual. 
Finished needlepoints can be very expensive.  I think this small blue one was about $25.00.  Unfinished ones can be found for practically nothing.
So, next time you’re looking at something that you know you’ll never finish, think about ways it can be used with a quick fix.  You may like the result even better.
I also had to share how excited I am to see strawberries on sale in the grocery store.  I ate about a dozen just standing over the sink.  Spring is here.
Miss Mustard Seed


  1. Amy@TheLemonCottage

    Your blog is always a pleasure to visit.
    And can I just say… I'm waiting for the announcement that you have opened your own photography studio! Seriously, your pictures are amazing. I wanted to pluck a strawberry right off the computer screen and pop it into my mouth… and I DON'T even like strawberries! 🙂

  2. Teri

    These pillows are gorgeous! I'm so glad you decided to give them a shot. I'm inspired to take another look at those unfinished pieces my mother has lying around! 🙂 Enjoy your weekend!

  3. Dreamy Whites

    These pillows are gorgeous. WOW. I learned how to do cross stitching, very time consuming! I love how you turned them into pillow cases. You are the best!
    Take Care,
    p.s. Thank you for the emails, you are so kind. I am sending you one tonight.

  4. Funky Junk Interiors

    Oh my… what a brilliant idea! The pillows are gorgeous!

    I'm so with you on quick projects. Anything much over a day and I lose interest pretty quick. Same goes for firetruck stripes. 🙂


  5. SueAnn

    Love the pillows!! Totally fab!
    And the strawberries. Yum!!!!

  6. Tina

    Wow Marian! As a really keen embroiderer and cross-stitcher, I love these so much! You have done a wonderful job and I love the frayed bits too:) Even more special that they came from your grandparents' attic. Hope you have a wonderful weekend ~ Tina x

  7. Marianne@Songbird

    How funny, I did something similar last summer. Doing an Ikea Knockoff with an unfinished embroidered table linen. I got four pillows out of it and still have some small embroideries left for projects.

  8. The Decorating Diaries

    I've pasted by unfinished needlepoint before. Now I'm really mad at myself. I won't make that mistake again. Thanks.


  9. Razmataz

    I think I like needlepoint with the background unfinished better! I would never have thought to use them unfinished, but they look great. The background is sort of burlapy (is that a word?). I think it makes them more contemporary!

  10. Jan

    You've created some real treasures from the goodies in your grandparents attic! This one's another keeper! Great job!

  11. KimW

    I like the color in the room – the red definitely adds some contrast to the blues and whites. The photos are gorgeous – Proud of you. See you tonight in Orlando -Mom

  12. Linda (Nina's Nest)

    Now I DO love needlepoint. I absolutely love that you were able to wash them and use them unfinished. I like the textured look you got out of them. Just perfect! Linda

  13. Wendy

    They are beautiful and so sweet! I'll never look at a piece of unfinished needlepoint the same! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  14. Jane

    The pillows look wonderful. I would never have guessed they were unfinished. I am sure your grandmother would be very pleased to see they are being displayed in your home.

  15. Kerin

    What a lucky girl you are, to have found such a treasure!
    I think you did a beautiful job finishing the pillows.
    Have a great day!

  16. T's Daily Treasures

    Fabulous! The pillows are gorgeous and how wonderful that those lovely embroidered pieces are now viewed on a daily basis rather than getting all musty in some hiding place. Have a great weekend. 🙂 Tammy

  17. Heather@PixieDust

    i wouldn't even know they were unfinished – it seems they were destined to be pillows.

  18. Paddywack Designs

    I agree I like the needlepoints better unfinished. Great look.

  19. * The Design Confidential

    These are absolutely stunning Hope you will join the party at my site by sending your links via email I will be including them in my PROJECT: LIBRARY. It's a 24/7/365 tutorial party. See you soon..

  20. Anna

    the pillows are beautiful, and you defintely can't tell the needlepoints are unfinshed

  21. Stella

    I am so glad you gave the needlepoints a new life. I always thing about how much labor and love someone has already put into them. Great job.

  22. Mommy of Monkeyshines

    Adorable, adorable, adorable! I adored your images and the pillows!! Thanks for capturing the essense of spring so perfectly.

  23. Tales From My Empty Nest

    Your needlepoint pillows are so beautiful!! Seeing those yummy strawberries makes me know that spring is just around the corner.
    Love & blessings from NC!

  24. a little bit of everything

    How nice to give a new life to what could be considered a family heirloom. The pillows came out great. And I too purchased strawberries just the other day and spring is definitely in the air here in New England today!

  25. Anna See

    Beatiful! I'm so glad they will be used and enjoyed now.

  26. Sylvia (at) Lily's Pad and Petals

    The pillows are gorgeous. I don't know anything about needlepoint but they looked finished to me. I'm so glad you gave them a new life- well worth it.

  27. Stacey @ The Blessed Nest

    How beautiful! I agree, I like the unfinished ones too :). How special that you are able to have family memories surrounding you!

  28. Katie@LeBeauPaonVictorien

    Great idea!!!! They look lovely, even unfinished.
    My great-aunt bought an un-finished needlepoint at a rummage sale; it still had the thread and pattern with it, so she finished it and then gave it to me. It's meant to be a cover for a piano bench seat. Now I just need to find the perfect bench! (We have an antique harmonium with no seat to sit at!)

  29. Victoria

    Oh that is so funny, I just this very second put a blog post up about my cross stitching that I need to finish and have been neglecting then I went down my sidebar and saw this! I figured if I blogged about mine it would make me feel more accountable and force me to finish it.
    Those are beautiful needlepoints! Even unfinished they look perfect:)

  30. Laryssa Herbert

    So lovely! I really like needlepoint too.

  31. Jean

    I think a little bird is telling me to get out an old needlepoint I did years ago and make something out of it. I LOVE needlepoint pillows!

  32. Connie

    My Mom & Grandmother were big needlepointers but the art was lost past them … I just don't have the patience. I un-covered my strawberry patch and can't wait to see the flowers appear! Mmmm!

  33. Leah

    Those are really very beautiful!. I have a soft spot for vintage needlepoint;I recently picked up a few volumes of mid century needlepoint encyclopedias that are breathtaking.

  34. Katie @ On the Banks of Squaw Creek

    Those are beautiful! I can't tell that they are unfinished – what are they supposed to look like finished?

  35. TheVirginiaHouse

    That turned out so beautiful! The strawberries look awesome!

  36. Christine

    The pillows are gorgeous!!!

  37. Kim

    I ADORE needlepoint pillows Marian. Yours are beautiful AND sentimental – the perfect combination!

  38. Lamp Tramp

    Beautiful pillows, they looked finished to me. What else should hev been done in needlepoint?

  39. Remodelaholic

    I am loving this! What a fun thing to have, I would smile every time I saw them!

    p.s. I need a line to dry clothes outside, it reminds me of my childhood and pulling off crisp jeans that are so stiff they don't bend at all… lol!

  40. Under the Willow

    Well look at that ~ I see some line drying going on! Love this especially because you are the winner of some Whispering Willow Natural Laundry Soap, and linen spray! I've emailed you!

  41. Corn in my Coffee-Pot

    Gorgeous pillows and needlework.

    I bet your grandmother would be proud.
    I like the way they look on the slipcovered sofa.

    nice job!

  42. angie

    I love the needlepoint, especially on your little sofa.

  43. kris@thebigboat

    me aomo a ti! I'm an LTSG grad who is between calls and crating her way to reality! I love your blog. It is a blast frrom the past, and a grounding in history that MSP does not have! tHANKS!

  44. Flea Market Trixie

    Gorgeous pillows, I love them on your slipcovered sofa

  45. Brenda

    The pillows are gorgeous- whoever did them did a wonderful job – and you made them your own – wonderful job and a great dedication to that other talented person!!!

  46. Cindy

    Those pillows are lovely and your photo captures their beauty so well. I'll have a strawberry, now. Suddenly I want some really bad!

  47. prashant

    I love them on your slipcovered sofa
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  48. Agneta

    Your blog ….. it's amazing and soooo inspiring. Nice to find you!

    A small footprint from Agneta & Sweden

    Ps. I have an ongoing jewelry contest on my blog. Welcome! Ds

  49. Sophie

    I love them, and I am not a fan of needlepoint.

  50. Bird


    What a Gorgeous use of the unfinished work! 🙂

    The strawbs are making me hungry! Hurray for spring!!!

    I'm having an Easter link party on Monday, I'd love it if you could make it?!

    Happy Sunday!

  51. Grace @ Ruby Moon Designs


    Those are just beautiful! I love how you made them into pillows, and I am sure that you are enjoying having them out and displayed now!

    Also, those strawberries look divine! We have been enjoying them here too…my son LOVES them, and we go through a pint in no time!

    Blessings, Grace

  52. Kim @ Cheap Chic Home

    Clever once again! I have one of these that I purchased with the intent of finishing. I'm going to find it and see if this is doable.

  53. Blue Creek Home

    You are a wise one, indeed!!! I like them better unfinished too!

    I'm lovin' it!

  54. Anna

    I'm on the hunt now for unfinished work…:)

  55. Kolein

    I would never have known those were "unfinished" if you didn't mention it. They are lovely!

    So, how do you close a pillow cover if you don't sew zippers???

    Agreed about your photography…I wanted to grab one of those strawberries, too!

  56. kanishk

    hose are just beautiful! I love how you made them into pillows, and I am sure that you are enjoying having them out and displayed now!
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  57. Angela (Cottage Magpie)

    I just adore needlepoint pillows, and I like them better when they have just that center motif — I had no idea that meant they were unfinished! Learn something every day.

    I wanted you to know that your "Resetting A Room" post inspired me and I mentioned it (and linked to it) on my latest post. Thank you for being so awesome.

    Also — you had told me about how you painted that gorgey settee, but I forgot to ask what sheen of paint you use when you're going to distress! Someone told me that if you use any sheen at all (i.e. not flat) that the distressing won't work because you'll scuff up the parts you don't want to be scuffed… that's probably not making sense. BUT, if you have time to share I'd love to hear what you do! OH yes, and the paint color on the settee — was it the "Creamy" or something else, if you don't mind sharing.


    ~Angela 🙂


  1. What I kept... - Miss Mustard Seed - […] I kept was a pair of needlepoint pillows.  I made these years ago (actually blogged about them HERE) and…


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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