Monday, August 21, 2006

The perils of recycling

As some of you know, I like to use recycled fabrics in my quilts as well as new quilting fabric. When my mum and I went to the Quilt Show at the weekend, we both found that the quilts that most appealed to us were the ones in Kaffe Fassett's collection of vintage quilts, like the one in the picture. We both like the 'maverick' quality and to us the imperfections made the quilts so much more lively and interesting to look at than some of the very perfect, planned quilts on display. Because the quilt has been washed, or the fabrics were cut down from clothing in the first place they also have that lovely soft look to them.

At the show my mum bought her first rotary cutter and ruler and is now fired up to start quilting. She has always sewn a lot, and when she had her shop she made cushions (both the living room and lacy bedroom varieties) and other goods to sell. So she has quite a big collection of furnishing fabric but not much lighter weight printed cotton. To start her off I made her a basket of pieces - all the fabrics except two are recycled from shirts or other clothing and they are in the pastel colours she likes.

So, I was all inspired to make a very quick quilt on Sunday. I thought I would make a 'Simply Strippy' quilt from Bonnie's in blues. However ... here's where it gets perilous. I was using all recycled fabrics, all 100% cotton, but they were different weights, some of them are very flimsy Liberty and Laura Ashley Fabrics and others were shirts so thick they were almost homespun. Generally when I piece this doesn't matter because the pieces are smaller and the differences in the thread count and 'stretch' are minimal and don't cause problems. There were lots of recycled fabrics in my Depression Block top but it went together just fine. But because the strips in this quilt are longer the differences between the fabrics become more pronounced! At first the top went a bit like a banana - curved over to one side, so I compensated for this by stretching the next strip that went on and so on. It did come back straight again but this made great big 'pillows' in the top that I don't think will quilt out. You can sort of see them in the picture. It's no great disaster - I can cut up the top into smaller pieces and make bags, or cut it in half and see if sewing it together a different way will help. I am clearly not a person who learns from her mistakes because I have just remembered that the same thing happened at Christmas when I sewed strips together to make stockings. Maybe I should have tried piecing using a walking foot?


Libby said...

What a lovely basket of fabrics. What a great get-started gift for your mom.

I don't have much experience with recycled fabrics, but sometimes regular quilt fabrics can be different weights. When I run into this situation, I lightly starch all the fabrics before cutting. It kind of makes them at least behave the same until I can get the top together.

Love the look of your Simply Strippy even if it didn't want to cooperate with you.

Screen Door said...

I love the blues....


Finn said...

You and your mum are girls after my own heart Fiona..*VBS* I so love that someone wanted to make that quilt in the show enough to work with what they had. That whole idea seems to be absent in todays world.

I think you couldn't have given your mum a nicer gift than to inspire her to beginning making quilts, and a basket of lovely soft fabric to boot. I hope you will show us some of her things when that time comes.
sorry about the distress in your Simply Strippy. I think you've hit the nail on the head tho, probably too much difference in the weights of the fabrics. You could be more maverick than usual and cut out the offending section, and join the top up to the original bottom...maybe??? I know you'll figure it out. Hugs, Finn

Tonya R said...

Are you always sewing your seams from teh same direction? One trick is to alternate so that everything doesn't pull the same way.

That's great you've got your mom into quilting now too. Hope she enjoys herself.

Tazzie said...

What a lovely gift for your mum, I bet she just loved it! I feel another quilting addict coming on!

Evelyn aka Starfishy said...

How fun that your Mom got her 1st rotary cutter and mat! Tell her to always keep her pinky off the edge of the ruler when she cuts -that way it is pretty much impossible to accidentally cut your finger with a 6.5" wide cutting ruler. And - when the cuts start skipping - time to replace the blade! Nice present of fabrics to give to her too. Have lots of fun together!