Sunday, January 22, 2017

Working with vintage textiles and fabric fragment finds

Rescued quilted pinwheel pieces.
Are you a rescuer of vintage textiles? Do you scrounge yard sales, e-bay listings and antique shops for old quilts, vintage linens and abandoned quilt blocks?

I am. I do.

I think many quilters and needleworkers understand and can identify with the time, effort, patience and love that went into the creation of those embroidered dresser scarves, tatted and crocheted doilies, cross-stitched pillowcases and tablecloths and the myriad vintage patchwork fragments that somehow get abandoned and forgotten but resurface in yard sales and estate auctions. We make a connection with these items and somehow, through these vintage textiles, make a connection with their [often anonymous] original makers. With that, some of us are moved to take those finds and fragments and upcycle them into new projects, giving them a new life and new purpose.

This year, the two quilt guilds I belong to, the Choo Choo Quilters and the Chattanooga Modern Quilt Guild, are partnering to bring vintage textile rescuer extraordinaire, Mary Kerr, to Chattanooga for a lecture and workshops for us. And the Choo Choo Quilters are devoting 2017 to rediscovering, renewing, and working with vintage patchwork pieces to upcycle them into new works.

In kicking off the Choo Choo Quilters' 2017 "Back to the Future" theme, I brought a few quilts I made over the years from rescued vintage textiles to the guild meeting. In upcoming blog posts, I'll share them with you. Here is the first one.
"Christmas Pinwheels" from salvaged quilt blocks.
This quilt was created from an e-bay purchase of five quilted pinwheels. One was too soiled and damaged to work into the new piece. The pinwheels were obviously cut out of an existing quilt—the batting was exposed, the fabric edges were ragged and unfinished. Some blocks had the triangle sashing attached on one or more sides. Likely, the original quilt from which these blocks came had a classic red and green color scheme. The green dye of the vintage fabrics, however, was unstable and fugitive.

I took the group of odd pieces and created a new workable layout, rotating and rearranging the pieces so the sawtooth sashing looked planned. New patchwork was added to repair and complete the quilt where needed. To simulate the faded green dye, I used a hand-dyed fabric for the patched pieces. Below, you can see the "new" green fabric beside the original.
Combining old with new fabrics to repair the pieces.
New fabric patches appliqued on or joined to the vintage quilted pieces.
Sometimes you must get creative with your patches to maintain the pattern in the patchwork. The arrow in the photo below shows a single triangle that consists of both vintage and new fabrics.
New fabric abuts vintage fabric in the pieced half-square triangle sashing.
To join the previously-quilted pieces, the batting was butted together and the raw fabric edges were turned under and blind stitched down to an adjacent piece.
Back of the quilt showing where pieces were joined.
In some areas, there was minimal seam allowance to turn under. You just have to make do with what is there. The new patchwork areas were hand quilted in effort to maintain consistency with the original. The binding was new and made with the hand-dyed fabric.
Back of quilt shows join.
"Christmas Pinwheels" time-span quilt.
This is what I consider a time-span quilt—a quilt or quilt top that was started in one era or generation and completed in another. A time-span quilt is often started by one person and finished by someone else.

This project was a labor of love and an exercise in problem solving—to create a usable, finished quilted piece from the salvaged blocks of a damaged quilt.

This quilt is not square.
It does not hang straight.
The triangles are not uniform in size or shape. But the red pinwheels and green sawtooth sashing spoke to me and I like to think I rescued them and created a second life for them.

The quilt has a character and charm that makes me smile when I look at it. And it comes out every year at Christmastime and cheerfully hangs on the wall through the holiday season. I'm glad I had an opportunity to share this quilt with my guild and here with you.

2 comments:

  1. Very pretty and I enjoyed reading your story of giving this quilt a new life. Once I rescued four Jacob's Ladder blocks from a bin of craft materials donated to my church. There was also an old chunk of flannel in a matching color. I sewed the blocks together, quilted them with the flannel on the back, and added coordinating binding. My husband fixed up a broken doll cradle, and I made a mattress and pillow to match the binding. The church nursery baby dolls had a new bed! It was a lot of fun to finish up the abandoned blocks.

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    1. What a wonderful project--and story--Cathie. That anonymous quilter is surely smiling knowing that her Jacob's Ladder blocks were made a lovely quilt for the baby dolls. Kudos to all the quilt block rescuers!

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