Sunday, 11 June 2017

Scrap-busting Patchwork Duvet Cover

My last blog post was pretty lengthy, so in the name of equilibrium, this one's going to be a bit shorter. I'm pleased to finally share with you a patchwork duvet cover that I made for Dolores that (I'm sure won't surprise you) took AGES. Of course it took ages to prepare and sew, but it also took ages because I decided to make it not long before I was due to give birth to Frankie, so it ended up being put on hold for yonks whilst we went through the fire-fighting early days (weeks, months) of life with a new baby.

(image source: Mrs M's Curiosity Cabinet)

The seed of the idea to make the duvet cover actually came from an exhibition I visited in 2015 called 'Fashion on the Ration' at the Imperial War Museum, London. Mrs M has written an excellent explanation of it here if you're interested to know more. During the Second World War in the UK, clothing and fabric were rationed, scarce and expensive, so a woman had made the patchwork house dress pictured above during the second world war from scraps of fabric she already had. I didn't linger on the dress for long during the exhibition, but afterwards I found myself thinking back on it, and the circumstances surrounding its creation. 

A year later I found myself in a bit of a pickle. My tiny sewing space was drowning in scraps and small pieces of lovely fabric that I didn't want to put in the textile recycling, and I thought a fair bit about how to use them up in fun and useful projects. A few months after that, Dolores started potty training and it became apparent that we needed another set of bed linen to cope with the inevitable accidents. There was nothing suitable in my fabric stash, then an equation began to emerge: I needed a big piece of pretty fabric, I had lots of small pieces of pretty fabric, could I make the small pieces of pretty fabric into one big piece of pretty fabric, like the house dress's creator had done? 

Most of the fabric is quilting-weight ish cotton that was largely either leftovers from my previous garment making projects, or the small and weirdly-shaped flotsam and jetsam from sample work I'd completed for the window displays for the Village Haberdashery. I used some plain white shirting from my stash for the reverse, and finished the bottom edges with some bias binding, which also reinforced where the press studs then went. I didn't bother to finish the raw edge of the patchwork inside, and after a several rounds of laundering, all is well. Looking at these pictures brings back a memory of sitting in my pants cutting out the hundreds of squares with my blunt rotary cutter in last summer's heat with my enormous, awkward belly getting in the way!


At a couple of points during the project, I wondered if I should add some wadding and extra rows of stitching and call it a quilt instead. Then all that work could be called an 'heirloom', rather than just a duvet cover, right?! But that would have failed to meet my aim of creating something easily washable. So instead, like the creator of the house dress, I spent many woman-hours creating something that is everyday-useful, and also quite special. 


Frankie Baldwin said...

I'd leave it as is and then when she out grows it just back it with a fleece blanket! That's what I do and I chuck them in the wash all the time!

Kathryn said...

This looks so lovely Zoe and what a great idea to make it as a duvet cover rather than a quilt! I love all the colours and different fabrics you've used.

Anonymous said...

Your scrap bucket was a treasure trove! What a fabulous, cheerful cover.

My first piece of patchwork was a cushion cover, which I didn't quilt (why would you)? But I didn't realise though that the quilting gives it strength, so it is disintegrating under the stress of being squashed and sat on regularly. For the replacement which I'm currently making I'm going to add a second layer of fabric -no wadding - and quilt these two layers to make it more robust.

Frankie, your first commenter seems to have had no problems, though.

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

It's gorgeous. I have so much scrap cotton to make into quilts, but I don't. NOW I want to!

Suzy said...

This is beautiful - and how satisfying to give new life to "leftovers". As others have said, you can always turn it into a quilt later by putting a bit of wadding inside and stitching or tying it in place. I made my children's quilts with polyester wadding so that they could survive lots of washing and drying (usually I prefer cotton or bamboo, but it does take much longer to dry).
Also, how cute is Dolores little bed? I think that's one of the nicest toddler beds I've seen.

Linda said...

I love it! What a great way to use up your scraps. I bet Dolores is pleased with it. XXX

Louise Perry said...

how lovely and very special.

Kristen said...

I planned to make a quilt for my 2 year old and turned it into a duvet cover instead (or something like a duvet cover, I just have two pieces of fleece inside of it right now). It made so much more sense for us!

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More Sewing said...

Love it - great way to use your scraps (which is what patchwork was orginally about). When we have dressmaking classes in the shop, so much fabric goes in the scrap bag that could be used for patchwork, it is a shame that more sewers don't do both dressmaking and patchwork - there would not be so much wastage!

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