On repurposing fabric

I whipped up a skirt on Saturday night that I've been dreaming about for weeks. I got a wonderful book from my stepsister last year called Sewing Green, with a lot of creative ideas for repurposing old things into new ones. One of the most intriguing ideas was making a skirt from a pillowcase, using the pillowcase's finished edge as the hemline. I'm sized out of fitting a pillowcase over my hips by about 2 inches, but smaller people could get away with it. Anyway, we have these sheets that we got for a wedding gift, all white with a beautiful embroidered eyelet border. They got a few small stains on them several years ago, and they're not as soft as some of our other sheets, so they've been put away for a while, but once I started thinking about making a skirt, I couldn’t get that gorgeous embroidery out of my head. So instead of a pillowcase, I used the bedsheet instead. It couldn't have been simpler: cutting a rectangle (hips plus 3" x desired length plus 1.5"), sewing it up the side to make a tube, then making an elastic casing and finishing the whole thing up. It was literally three seams. It took me more time to iron and cut the fabric than it took to sew, and the project was made even easier by Jack volunteering to take the boys to the library so I could get it done before dinner. It's not the most elegant skirt since it's just straight with an elastic waist, and since it's white and I didn't bother with a lining, I had to dig my old slip (not seen in about five years) out of the back of the closet. But it's comfy, and it was worth it anyway.

I just love the hemline of this skirt right above my boots. Every woman needs some boots to wear once in a while.

I've also pulled out my grandmother's scrapaholic quilt to work on — remember it from way back two years ago?? Well, I got it from her when I was still working on a dissertation, so I sewed a border on, basted it together with the batting and backing, then rolled it up and stuck it in a box. It sat in the box through dissertation, then dissertation abandonment was quickly followed by pregnancy, and a newborn... and all of those things precluded working seriously on a quilt. When Kent started school, I was determined to pull it out and begin quilting it, but I looked at it again and realized it would still take me years to hand quilt it like I had been planning.

My grandmother taught me to hand quilt. It’s one of those passed-down skills that I’m so grateful to have — it makes me feel connected to generations of women in my family whom I never even met. Machine quilting is sort of unreliable since the stitching can come out a lot more easily, and there’s something about it that’s not quite visceral enough for me. I love my sewing machine, but I feel the need to finger the fabrics on a quilt like this. I didn't want to cop out and do it on a machine. I took a long look at the quilt after having a timely reminder about another option, and I tried to imagine it as a tied quilt. Tied quilts are doable. I sheepishly asked my grandmother if it was alright for me to tie it instead of hand quilting, because I wanted to finish it and let her enjoy her handiwork. She worried that it was going to be a burden to me, but I assured her it wasn't, that I was thrilled to be able to do it. How could I not LOVE this opportunity? I mean, it's her life in fabric. Every scrap means something to her, either because she made something from it like an article of clothing or a quilt for one of us, or because it came from the stash of a friend, or a sister who recently passed away. As I've been tying the little knots of purple wool that seem to pick up the purple in the quilt beautifully, I've reminisced and dreamed a little about what all of these different fabrics mean. Most have meanings I'll never know. Every 10 or 15 squares, I find one that instantly becomes my new favorite. There's a lot of: "Okay, that's my favorite. No wait, this one is DEFINITELY my favorite."

It's nice to pull my head up out of the water of childrearing for a minute so I can do this kind of work again.

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Yay! Quilts are for using. And you are right that I love the skirt. I actually have a mostly finished but way to big skirt around here with an underskirt made from a very similar sheet. I have been thinking of digging it out and cutting it down for months....
You look great, Erica--I love the whole outfit put together. The shirt really suits you. I am jealous of your working sewing machine, because now I want that book!

I started buying reclaimed yarns to knit with, and am actually making a whole scarf/hat/mitt set for John's green-minded cousin for Christmas. It feels really great to be able to breathe new life into something that was pretty much thrown away.
Two beautiful projects!
I think you look fantastic! And the skirt is nice too. : )
We are currently working on a quilt made from some of our favorite baby outfits now that we are done having kids. It should be really fun in the future to look at this quilt and remember our kids in those clothes. That skirt is great!
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