Sunday, March 17, 2013

Something New: Repurposed Vintage Quilt Blocks

Let's dive back into the subject of thrift shop textiles. In our last installment, the vintage needlework treasure didn't need anything from me except a pressing, a frame, and an explanation. Though technically unfinished by the original maker, there's no way I could have made that embroidery any more enthralling.   

But then there are the textile creations that cry out for something more.

For example, several years ago, at a flea market I scored a large pile of unfinished Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks - painstakingly hand-pieced with a hexagon center, a circle of six hexagons in a contrasting  color, and a print for the outer circle of 12 more hexagons. Here are four randomly chosen blocks from the big stack.

The fabrics and color combinations ranged from charming to alarming. (That orange-and-red one is even more awful in person).

I'm guessing they're from the 1960s. Along with cottons, there are some petroleum-based fabrics, and some are pretty thin. There's no way I'd use the flimsier blocks in a pieced quilt. (Plus, there's no way I'd piece a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. Even with the individual blocks finished, it's still an overwhelming amount of precision handwork to join them.)

So those blocks sat in my cabinet, until the day, probably in late December, that I decided to make some last-minute holiday gifts.

I dove into my fabric stash, and came up with this:
Does it ring a bell? If you're an art quilter, or have gone to art quilt exhibits, or have read about art quilting, you might recognize this as a fabric by genius quilting superstar Terrie Mangat. (If you're not familiar with Terrie's quilts, you're in for a treat. Check out Along with making art quilt masterpieces, Terrie designs fabric for Westminster's Free Spirit (no financial affiliation). That's what this piece is.

I couldn't collect all the awesome stuff that Terrie put on this one piece of fabric (although I've tried). Here's a closer look:

It's a wackadoodle junk drawer, and exactly what my sedate granny blocks needed.

So on some of them, I appliqued divers:

(The washed out pastel color in the first picture is more accurate.)

Here we dive into a different color scheme:

Next, I set a mermaid in yellow, purple and blue waters:

On another block, I used Terrie's pudgy cupid: 
He or she is not looking to spread love. He or she is hunting quail... 
...who frequent plaid forests. I'd pay good money for more of that bird-strewn plaid. 

Terrie's fabric also has a Santa, and I had exactly the right block for it:
There's something about the juxtaposition of edgy/contemporary with vintage/demure one that makes me laugh! I hope the original maker (who is probably about 100 now and looking down on me from assisted living wi-fi or heaven) can forgive me.

To finish these pieces, I put batting on the back, free motion quilted them, added a layer of white felt on back, cut around the edges, finished and joined all the edges with a satin stitch all the way around, and made a tiny hanging loop at the back top. They're primarily wall hangings and/or trivets, but if I'd used cotton fabric on the back, they could also serve as potholders.

So....have you refreshed any vintage blocks lately?


  1. Love them! Am in mid stride repurposing a partially pieced vintage GFG top - my approach is to deconstruct some of the blocks, leave others connected and float all across a pale background that will be heavily quilted. Requires a fair amount of hand applique so will be some time getting it to the quilting stage

    1. Sounds fascinating! Hand applique still has to be less stressful than hand piecing zillions of hexagons accurately. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Cathy, those blocks make me smile. I think you did a great job making them contempory and putting them to use. Makes me want to get out some old embroidered state quilt blocks that I have. That is if I did quilts, which I don't. LOL. Thanks for sharing. Maggie

  3. State blocks would be a wonderful background for something fun and contemporary!!! Have fun with them! Thanks for the comment.

  4. Ah A challenge I have some of those exact blocks (well, different colors!) in a box!

  5. When you do something with them. please send me pix!
    Thanks for stopping by, Susie!

  6. These are delightful. Hmm, wonder what I could trade you for some of that Terrie fabric?

    1. Sandra, I don't have enough left to trade! Maybe you can find some on ebay. I got mine on sale I think at - a long time ago! Thanks for the comment.


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