|Grandmother's Garden - remade version|
It was about this same time, in the 1970s, that double-knit polyester was very popular in clothing. Grandma loved her double-knits and made herself many dresses and pants out of the stuff, as did my mother and other family members and friends. Double-knit scraps were thus plentiful and found their way into quilts.
If you're a baby boomer, you too may remember having come across a double-knit polyester quilt or two in your lifetime. Whether you have good memories of those quilts or bad, these colorful quilts were nonetheless "interesting," to say the least.
At this point in my life, I can honestly say I think double-knit quilts are truly interesting and, in their own way, beautiful. But when I was younger, I had a different view. Funny how one's perception of things often changes with the passing of time. I used to not like the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin much, either. Go figure.
There are people today who collect double-knit polyester quilts. Bill Volckening, of Wonkyworld, is one of them. He's shown some real beauties on his blog through the years (enter "double knit" in the blog's search feature to see). Victoria Findlay Wolfe has commented about these kinds of quilts and their influence in her life. One of her quilts on display at the Wisconsin Quilt Museum this summer was done in double-knits as an homage to her grandmother Elda and that genre of quilting.
|Retro Poly Mod by Victoria Findlay Wolfe|
Mom gave me one of the hexagon quilt tops when I moved into my own place. I also just kept it stored, in a plastic bag inside an old suitcase in the basement. I obviously didn't appreciate the quilt much at the time. It was the early 1980s, and I was very much over polyester double-knit. If it wasn't country blue and mauve, or peach, there didn't seem to be a place for it in my decor. We can all have a laugh about that decorating scheme now, though it's probably only a matter of time until it's back.
The quilt top I recently found was not the hexagon quilt, but a different one I don't remember having seen before, a 16-patch. It was among my late mother's things. There is no doubt it was made by my grandmother, probably later than the hexagon quilts, by the looks of things.
The seams were stitched with between 1/8 and 1/2 inches as a seam allowance, and all points between. It's a wonder how she made the disparate sized 16-patch blocks fit together at all. Maybe her propensity to take an extra tuck or pleat here and there, and/or the stretchy sashing helped. The sashing itself obeys no particular rules. Sometimes it lines up with the row next to it, more often it does not. Obviously, Grandma didn't give a hoot about the quilt police!
She utilized some non-double-knit (but still synthetic) fabrics to round out some of the blocks. Unlike the double-knits, these pieces are woven and starting to fray, aided by the fact that they're not cut on any particular grain.
The sashing fabric feels like Qiana, another synthetic fabric from the '60s and '70s. Looks like it may have been a muumuu in a different life.
Remember those silky disco shirts? Yeah, it's that stuff in all its slinky, non-breathable glory. Brings to mind memories of how those shirts felt to the touch after my dance partner had worked up a sweat by the light of the revolving mirror ball (ew). I can almost smell the Brut cologne.
Anyway, I wanted to find the other hexagon quilt top, after I came upon the 16-patch, so I could show pictures of both quilts. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the hexie anywhere. The old suitcase where I last remembered seeing it? Empty. I've dug through the entire storage space in the basement and come up with nothing. I'm beginning to suspect that in my purge of a couple years back, I inadvertently drove it to Goodwill along with a load of other bags full of stuff. Makes my heart sink to think I did that, but unless it turns up elsewhere, it's starting to look like a real probability.
Back to this particular 16-patch double-knit quilt, part of me wants to take it apart and remake it, using the better bits and laying aside the rest. It wouldn't necessarily end up being a 16-patch quilt again, maybe just a straight patchwork or something else entirely.
The blocks seem to have originally been cut between 3-1/4 and 3-3/4 inches square (again, measurements are widely variable). I'd have to gently wash it, then take the entire thing apart and recut the pieces to a uniform size.
As it happened, the other day when I was shopping at Goodwill last weekend, I found a bag of scraps, including two pieces of tomato-red double-knit, about 1/2 yard each (60 inches wide). So I'd have that available to possibly add to and liven things up.
Or perhaps I should just fold it back up and store it away, keeping it as a reminder of my grandmother's handiwork? More or less preserve it as is—for better or worse—for posterity, a tactile and visual record of her latter quilting years and the fabric medium of the times?
Your thoughts? What would you do?