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Quilts from Old Clothes? - Frugal Quilting

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frugal quiltingThis discussion on frugal quilting and making quilts from old clothes was begun in the Quilting Forum in August 2002 - I've selected some of the useful comments - to read the complete thread of discussion, see what has been added and to comment yourself - if you've thought about making quilts from old clothes to practice frugal quilting, here are some ideas.

When browsing the book section at the fabric store, I saw a book entitled "Quilts from the Depression era." I skimmed over the pages and it looked as if it had the designs from that era (very nice.) However, I expected the book to have instructions for the use of old fabrics in quilt making. Have any of you ever "recycled" old clothes into a quilt? Was it much more difficult? I've heard that it may not be a good idea for a first time project.
I have used thrift shop clothes for quilting material, batik shirts and such but I worry about using worn clothes. My mother has only made 2-3 quilts and one was made out of old clothes from when I was a child, there were holes in the quilt within 7-8 years because of the wear.

Yes, back when I began quilting 20+ years ago, I would use the lesser-worn parts of shirts and house-dresses...


I would go to garage sales and shop for those 50-cent clothes - maybe there's a stain on the front but the back is good; or a frayed collar and cuffs... I would especially hit the ones advertising "large women's clothes" - always a lot of cotton blouses - like hitting the jackpot! :) I also picked up a lot of cotton "peasant" dresses - do you remember the Gunne Sax dresses from the late '70s? Lots of fabric in those....

My favorite find was oxford-cloth shirts and men's plaid cotton dress shirts. When combined with other fabrics, they added a little "pizazz" to the quilts. Don't forget, you can fill a jar up with the buttons cut off those shirts - great for primitive quilts, or just building up a button stash.

I made a beautiful log cabin quilt using shirt fabrics for the lights, mixed in with some light cotton quilting prints, and the darks are pink, purple, med-dk blue, and blacks - my DH calls it the bruise quilt but it is really pretty. Its on my bed now, and I made it 12 years ago. Another quilt is a really scrappy Jacob's Ladder made from pinks and blues, and shirt fabrics for the backgrounds. I made it 15 years ago and it won a ribbon in the museum quilt show a couple years later. Both these quilts are machine quilted, and get used a lot.

I think if you especially want a soft, "grandma" quilt, the shirt fabrics really add to the "look". Just toss any part that is see-through thin, frayed, or has little pills or nubs on it from excessive wear.
Jeri in Texas
I am using the best of my late DH clothing to make memory quilts for his grandkids now. I believe our grandmothers made quilts out of old clothing as I have one my first late DH grandmother made that had parts of his dads clothing in it. As long as the fabric is still good, not stained, faded or worn it should work as well as new and colors sure won't bleed any more. This is a good way to get some designs that aren't in the fabric stores.
The biggest problem I have encountered with quilting with clothing is that there really isn't much fabric in each item, so you end up with a quilt with a rather "scrappy look" -- lots of different fabrics. What could be a problem for a beginner is that most quilt patterns list yardage - they don't say "you need 12 shirts, 2 skirts and a pair of pants." So it could be difficult to figure out how many old clothes you actually need. I gather up a bunch of things I think will work together and just start. Sometimes I run out in the middle of a project, but usually that just means finding more clothes to work with and maybe changing directions just a little bit.

I made a quilt for my youngest DD three years ago from her outgrown baby clothes. She keeps it on her bed and occasionally drags it around and I have found no problem with it whatsoever. Of course, baby clothes don't get too much wear anyway. I say, Go for it!

frugal quiltingHey there! This is my kinda thread... I have been quilting for yrs! I taught myself to quilt....tho' I do remember mom and her mom putting together quilts...it's just a vague memory.... It was enuff to inspire me.... I have made a lot of quilts from clothing (especially blue jeans.. TUFF to hand or machine sew thru but very warm and durable ...curtains...etc.... ~~Anything fabric~~ Learned by trial and error what to use and what not to use!!! I love to recycle! I just made my 1st 'CRAZY' quilt top outa clothes..... THAT WAS REALLY FUN! Quilting doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg!!!! Just my 2 cents worth! *VBG*

"How long have you been quilting? Are your children interested in the craft? Thank you for sharing. Did you have any formal training?"

Thanks...I've been quilting on and off for about 5 years, but serious for the past two. I have taken a couple classes at our LQS, but mostly self-taught. My kids are a little interested. They run in spurts. They all can sew and have made projects, but they have to be motivated to do so. I teach simple classes at their school. I'm always amazed at how the kids just love it. Don't you just LOVE that story? I'm getting ready to post a couple more quilts to my site, so check back soon.

Yes, I've made many many quilts out of clothing that's been outgrown or never gets worn anymore. And I just love the term "scrappy" -- that's what quilts were, back when: we'd make quilts out of scraps and old clothes -- going out to purchase fabrics just to make a quilt was reserved for special occasions, such as wedding quilts -- there was no such thing as a quilting shop.

Here's a pic of quilt I made out of someone's old aloha shirts (and one new fabric) -- Aloha Shirt Quilt: http://www.bevividnow.com/QuiltShirt.htm

Barbara at Fare Tahiti Fabrics


That is really neat, love how the one shirt stands out, course Hawaiian fabrics are so nice.......

Thank you, Judy -- this one was a little difficult to work, as the shirts that I was sent to cut up for it were different fabric types -- cotton, rayon, and synthetics -- and the fact is that the woman who asked me to do this had no idea what I was doing -- she had simply asked me to make a quilt out of her husband's old shirts. I just thought that it would be funny to include an aloha shirt in a quilt made out of aloha shirts. She gave this to her husband as a Christmas gift, and he was bowled over with it -- he took it around to visit all of his friends on Christmas Day and show it off.
Barbara at Fare Tahiti Fabrics

I have made a memory quilt using a grandma old clothes and photo transfers in the middle of each crazy quilt block. It is difficult to work with because all of the fabric is not cotton and some unknown and slippery to work with. I would not do it again unless it this kind of quilt that was to be a cherished remembrance.

Keep on StitchAnn, Debra
Oh, I've made twin up to king size jeans quilts.... believe me they are a handful to get together.. u kinda have to wrestle em thru the machine..... I'm thinking about doing a raggy blue jean (you know the kind that ~~~FRAY~~~ they are supposed to be real easy to put together!) Good luck with watever you try!

frugal quiltingI used a bunch of DH's worn out jeans to make a raggy quilt for my car backseat.

I used just the good parts, back of legs, back pockets, only the good stuff. I sewed wrong sides together with 5/8ths inch seams and then washed and dried it. Then I had to trim off the strings but after that when I wash it it's ok. It's a good weight and if (god forbid) that I have a flat or whatever I won't feel bad about putting it on the ground. I also have to watch that the G'Kids don't put it in their car....Wish I could show a picture. It did turn out neat. BTW, no batting or backing.

I also made a quilt from my DDs baby dresses. Being the first GrandDaughter after 7 GrandSons, my DM bought her many beautiful dresses. When my DD was about 8 we cut the 100% cotton dresses in 4" squares and made a quilt. I purchased a calico that she liked and used it for some squares in the quilt and in the border to tie everything together. That quilt was always used, sometimes as a bed cover, sometimes as a snuggle quilt. It went to college with her and today her little children are using it.

The only place is is showing the wear is in the one polyester blend block that I used.

frugal quiltingI haunt thrift shops etc. for old tablecloths for quilts. They usually haven't gotten a lot of wear-and they're cheap! I pick up ones with stains on them for 25-50 cents each. I then simply discard the bit with the stain. I bought a gorgeous unstained red batik for $1.25 the other day, got it home, and discovered it looks grand on the table in my entranceway-its not getting cut!

My grandmother (now 102) made a quilt using the dresses my mother (now 82) wore to first grade in 1926. The dresses made up the appliqued flowers. It's wonderful to have and think about. The pattern came out in the Oregonian newspaper and many women made it. Since, someone has collected the history of that newspaper article and the quilts that came of it and Grandma's quilt has been registered as part of the group.

The quilt has never been used, just occasionally displayed. It's wrapped in a cotton pillowcase and is refolded every so often so as to not get worn.

Wow. What a great story. So your mom was a little girl during the depression. Has she or your grandmom ever told you of other "recycled" items? I'm sure that at 102, your grandmother has so much "history to share (if she is able.)


Certainly have. One customer brought 3 yard bags full of the clothing of each of her 3 children. She wanted a quilt for each of them made out of their clothing, including undies, headbands, a pillowcase AND a rag doll! They actually turned out quite nicely. Now how well they will hold up with hard washing in college dorm washing machines is hard to say.

For a first project, you might want to use inexpensive but good quality new fabric. That way you don't have to deal with cutting around holes, zippers, buttons, having enough of one fabric to complete the project, and having the finished item wear away quickly.


Continued on Page Two - click to read more


I'd love to show some photos of quilts old clothes and FRUGAL Quilts in the Gallery here - if you have a photo of a quilt to share and can email me a scan or digital photo (plus include a little explanation about how you made it) to quilting -at- equilters.com


Susan Druding
Email: quilting @ equilters.com

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