Old Quilt, New Jacket
smells like memories
feels soft as butter
worn by time
sewing is one of those things that happens alongside all of life
alongside the very best of days
and the very worst days
from the Sunday dinners to the never ending barn chores of a Tuesday afternoon
the cold of a morning you can see your breath to the dough rising on the kitchen counter
whatever it is being sewn together in the background
between all those moments that make up a day
it always holds a little bit of all of that
this quilt was a special find
it isn’t mine… was not my family’s… I do not know its story
and it wasn’t until I was halfway into cutting this piece up I started to realize it was very, very old
the fabric is so soft, but obviously wasn’t anything special to start
some of the fabrics look like they had once been clothing, some look like they had been grain sacks, all look like they were a little weathered before they started this project
but then together, like every quilt of all time, they become something new
something that goes from collected bits of using what you have to an incredible treasure
this quilt was machine pieced, but the threads are not always matching - the fabric or each other
I LOVE that you can see these mismatched threads at some of the seams
the white in the quilt is made of many different white or cream fabrics, varying in color and type, the print on a few visible from the reverse side
the basting stitches from the appliqued handles are still in place
I found a rusted-in pin holding in place the next seam (I did take that one out, though)
The antique quality, mismatched simplicity, and dedicated craft of this quilt brings a timeless character to the finished piece - this incredible quilt jacket. It is not a new and perfect look, but an aged, vintage heirloom of wearable art. It has a story.
It is nerve-wracking cutting into something that holds such a history within the seams. If nothing was created, it would be a giant loss. And I loved it enough to frame it just as it was. Or even backwards.
Have you ever looked at an unfinished quilt top from the backside? Find one. Stare at it. It’s one of my favorite conversations. Each of those threads. The corners. The imperfections. The wins. Where things paused.
The jacket is lined in a vintage, unused fabric that is no longer in print. I love finding unused antique fabrics as much as I do quilt tops. They, too, have a path that led to where I found it. Often the factory it was made in is no longer in production. The selvage notes are pieces of time that are long gone. I was reading about one of these factories one distracted selvage note research flurry and read how workers in this company had been with the company for generations - had met their spouse there - the only job they had ever had... How workers knew the fabrics and would recognize the prints they had helped create, out in the world and they always thought of where it had began. By the time I find a vintage piece of fabric, the company and workers may be gone, but the fabric usually holds within its folds a note of its original start. The piece of paper with its size, fabric content, maybe what it is intended to be jotted on a note or purchase slip, pinned to the fabric with a now rusted pin. Sometimes it is cut for a pattern. Sometimes it is a folded whole piece. Always, they are found in a place where the pause wasn't picked back up.
For years and years I have collected these things and just admired them. Seriously. I have so many boxes it’s a little embarrassing. When my grandma passed away I got a little box given to me of her sewing “things”. She was a farmer, so all her sewing supplies were in livestock medicine containers and boxes. A little bit funny, a little bit terrifying, and a LOT connection to that piece of time and her part in it. When a Great Aunt of mine passed away, I inherited some of her unbelievably eloquent fabric collection - every bit of I marvel at (the lining for this jacket is from her collection). When my neighbor’s sister’s cousin was moving and didn’t want sewing things anymore, a box would arrive on my doorstep. Sometimes a bag would arrive and I don’t even know where it came from. But they feel like treasures and it’s hard to send them off, not knowing if they’d end up in the trash. After all of which, you wouldn’t believe how much time I can spend in a thrift store looking at old fabric for how much I already have. It’s the most ironic activity because I could do the exact same thing in my attic for free. But, once I started making things with these old treasures, it has opened a door. Now it feels less like I am hoarding and more like I’m giving new life to something that might have otherwise been lost. And that is just so much dang fun. It is a giant puzzle making them work as a wearable piece, but a fun puzzle. And to bring it all full circle, someone else entirely might fall in love with a piece as much as I do and carry it on into their life.
So while I started making these with the intention of making one for myself, I have had so much fun diving into making many more than the one I wanted. If you would like to see a few of the ones made, a collection of photos of my quilt jackets is at https://www.riverterraceranch.com/quiltjacketgallery
For currently available Quilt Jackets of mine, they are listed at https://www.etsy.com/shop/SewPiece
This little jacket is a gem. I hope you find as much joy as I do in these fabrics, threads and the story these pieced bits hold within their seams. Wishing you a beautiful day full of sweet moments that stretch out like long basting stitches, moments on the porch and stories over tea and the warmth created as only time can do.