CUSTOM: The Grandmother Quilt
Last Halloween, I received a sweet email from a woman in Pescadero who asked if I could make a custom quilt using fabric from her grandmother's handmade clothes. She had recently passed and was left some of her hand sewn clothes from the 70s and 80s (and gave me fair warning that the fabric was VERY 70s and 80s). Memories of childhood summers spent with her grandmother in Cornwall left a lasting impression on her and she wanted to create a quilt that would combine modern aesthetics with a sense of nostalgia.
I was more than happy to oblige, although slightly wary of that warning of fabrics from the 70s. As you know, I'm not shy about my feelings against synthetic fabrics and ditzy florals, but the sentiment of turning grandmother's handmade clothes into a modern quilt was stronger than my dislike for corduroy.
So we started the design process - asking and answering lots of questions, sourcing visual inspiration, sending multiple rounds of design sketches and choosing complementary fabric colors until we finally had made all the decisions. Then in March, she sent her grandmother's fabric which opened up a whole amazing can of worms.
I received the fabric in the form of one house dress, one button down shirt, one skirt and a scrap of fabric. All florals or stripes, all warm browns and all soft well-worn cottons (and that damn corduroy). And all, I mean ALL, hand sewn. This woman from Cornwall not only made all her own clothes, but HAND STITCHED everything. And these were no simple garments - there were multiple plackets, complicated sleeves and darting, bias binding along the inside seams, pockets galore and even crocheted cuffs on the house dress. All sewn by hand and still in excellent shape after 40+ years. Talk about sewing goals.
It pained me to undo all that beautiful handiwork, but I managed to keep some of the more interesting details, like the hand sewn pockets intact for the back of the quilt to remind anyone who took notice that this was once a skirt.
Despite working with multiple fabrics, textures and prints not usually in my wheelhouse, I'm incredible pleased with the balance that was struck in this quilt - the main design is thoroughly modern and assertive but softened with the warm vintage fabric and rows of hand quilting. I can only hope that it reminds her of those fond memories of her grandmother and those summers spent in Cornwall.
Have fabric from your grandmother you'd like to turn into a quilt? Or simply want a quilt that's custom designed for you or someone special? I'd love to hear all about it and work together with you!