My Comforter Mended - A Baby-step Towards Quilting
I tried and failed several times to write up the convoluted story of this comforter. But it’s not really important to the point. And I had no punchy way to describe my frustrations. So long story short. This comforter is from a store. It was not made to last. And mending it gave me a chance to practice my patchwork quilting skills.
If you go to most large-ish craft supply stores, the fabric section will be mostly quilting cotton (and the fleecy polyester stuff). I guess quilting is quite addicting, like knitting, and it creates beautiful results from talented quilters.
However, regular quilting culture makes me a bit uncomfortable.Don’t get me wrong, I think the results are often beautiful, and the craftsmanship and skill required to make them is awe-inspiring. But it seems kind of wrong to me when a “scrap quilt” is made of dozens of large pieces of beautiful new fabric cut into smaller pieces. I have much more respect for true scrap quilting. When the fabric really comes from scrap fabric, discarded from previously worn clothes.
That’s the kind of quilting I can get behind. If you read diaries or fiction from the pioneer era, there are some lovely quotes about quilts carrying the memories of entire families in them. There is one particularly special part of Little House on Rocky Ridge where Laura tells her daughter she would love one scrap of any dress she’d ever owned so she could put it in a quilt to remember.
So that’s the kind of quilting I aim for now. I have a long relationship with quilting that goes back to my golden birthday. At 6 years old, my mother said she would make me a quilt. She said she would finish it before I graduated from high school. 12 years later, she took a bunch of clothing scraps we had been saving up all that time and went to her mother’s to finish the quilt frantically before I walked onstage in cap and gown.
I have made a couple of quilts myself. They were not labors of love. They were intense efforts to get something finished and they were quite poorly made. Since those projects, my sewing skills and patience have improved considerably. However, I’m not up for trying my hand at another full quilt just yet. So this mending project is my baby step towards a full quilt someday. I had a comforter that had ripped pretty terrible.
Here’s a picture of the comforter look when I bought it (minus the dozen worthless pillows):
SIDENOTE: If you want to feel like mending your blankets is saving your money, google around for the price of new bedsets! Holy balls! Do people really pay that much?
This bedclothes choice is the result of the classic newlywed mistake: I wanted a comforter for him! Something not too frilly or feminine. Boy was that a waste of time for many reasons! I bought this thing with my mother-in-law at Bed Bath & Beyond.
It turns out, that inner plaid rectangle is made from a different fabric as the outer, and the weave on it was not strong enough to hold a seam over time. So eventually, it tore away. I mended this by hand a couple of times, which greatly improved my mattress stitch, but didn’t really improve the blanket as the fabric kept tearing.
Finally, I let it go in frustration and decided to tear out the whole thing and reinforce it with new fabric. Of course, I let it sit on my bed with the batting showing for a good long while. Long enough for my dog to make the holes bigger and bigger as he shifted around on top of it each night. Finally, it made it to my mending pile this fall so it would be set for winter use.
I’ve put together a step-by-step list of how I went about fixing the blanket.
Step 1: Remove Bad Fabric & Measure
I considered taking a pair of shears to the blanket, but I ended up using a seam ripper which was slower, but meant that I could use the incompetent fabric as a guide for size.
I measured the weak pieces of fabric I removed and wrote down what size rectangles I would need in order to patch the hole they left. The original pieces had mitered corners which I briefly considered emulating.
Step 2: Collect Scraps
I went through my scrap bag and pulled items that were a good size: large enough to be useful but not so large that they would be better used for something else. A lot of people don’t like quilting with any knit fabrics, but I have so many old baby clothes to use up, but I am willing to use a knit fabric in with the basic woven fabrics. I generally stuck to woven for the comforter project, but a couple of old baby pants found their way in.
Since this project is really only seen by me and my kids, I wasn’t overly concerned with color scheme. This can be a huge time-suck for quilters: picking out the perfect colors to go together, but I don’t really have an eye for it anyway. I find I like the results better when I mash stuff together and hope than when I carefully try to stick to a certain palette.
Step 3: Arrange by Size
I mentioned I didn’t want to use any fabric scraps that were too big because they can be useful in other projects. The border I made had to be 6 inches wide including seam allowances, so I arranged my available pieces into what was more than 6 inches wide when I cut it into straight lines.
For the smaller pieces. I cut those into straight lines too and paired them with another small piece that would get them to 6 inches when they were sewn together.
This was the most time-consuming part of the whole project.
Step 4: Piecing
I did a bit of piecing bits together when I arranged by size, but then I had to really decide how to fit things to make the right shape: long narrow rectangles. I also got the bright idea that I would try a little bit of “real” quilting with a quilting book I found for sale at the library for 50 cents.
There were these cute little stars made out of rhombus shapes, and for some reason these looked doable. The results are pretty unprofessional, but not so bad that I couldn’t use them.
One other fun little detail I tried was using an applique stitch for the first time. I had these felt heart patches I made for an old pair of Kyah’s pants, so I added them on and didn’t stitch the tops. So they’re actually itty-bitty little pockets. Why? For fun.
Step 5: Sewing
As in all sewing projects. The sewing part is not the most time-consuming step. Especially with quilting, because you mostly just have to do straight lines. I sewed all the pieces together and then sewed them into the existing comforter as far as I could with right sides together. I couldn’t reach the last portion of each side, so I hand-stitched the last five inches or so of each seam .
I’m actually very pleased with the final result of this mending project. My comforter is stronger than ever and now I get to sleep under memories of my kids. I have the fabric I used to make their first aprons, and their favorite pairs of pants, I have some of my dad’s old shirts, bits of dresses, and even the fabric I made their sun hats from.
My Take Away Lessons:
Quilting is much more meaningful (but slightly more difficult) if you use real scraps.
Scrap items will remind you of their ancestor clothes whenever you see them which is a delightful result.
Always look through the books for sale at the library. They could have patterns in them!
Save all old clothes that are too worn or stained for second-hand use.
Sometimes your mended project can be more lovely an durable than the original.
Items with bad associated memories can be given good associated memories if you take your time to fix them.
Happy new year’s folks!