I confess that I hate throwing out clothes made of good or interesting fabrics, even when the item is no longer wearable. I always think there must be another use for them. Over the years I made several things out of fulled old sweaters – hats, mitts, bags, slippers, and so on. Friends and neighbours started to pass on old feltable items; I ended up with bags of woolen and cashmere sweaters that had either been shrunk or attacked by moths, stacks of silk shirts that had rips or stains, and odd bits of hand or machine made lace in various techniques.
I’ve always admired Victorian crazy quilts with their obsessive details and fine fabrics, but knew I would never be able to complete such a huge project with typical tiny pieces. However, it occurred to me that I could do a more modern interpretation of one.
A Victorian crazy quilt was a chance for a needlewoman to show off her skill at embroidery; this was an opportunity for me to play around.
The quilt started a few years ago and has been built up gradually as I acquired more old cashmere sweaters; some from a nearby thrift shop whose operator saved unwearable items for me. I used food colours to dye some of the sweaters to get colours that worked with my blue-green-purple palette. I also lightly fulled any sweaters that had not already been shrunk. This was done to stabilize any cut lines and also to make the quilt slightly thicker.
To make a similar throw you will need to gather materials for the top – this could be fine cashmere, wool, or mohair sweaters or heavier wool sweaters if you want a heavier blanket. Your materials should be feltable.
If you want to dye any of the material, wool and other animal fibres dye very nicely with food colour and white vinegar, which of course are kitchen safe and require no special equipment. There are many tutorials on how to do this on the web.
Read more in our Summer 2013 issue.
Article by Denise Powell