I have always been a blanket hound.
When I was little, my mom sewed us blankets that were corduroy on one side and colorful polyester on the other. They were edged with silky binding, which I loved to finger as I sucked my thumb and/or relaxed. Eventually, I wore each one to shreds, but I never wanted to give them up. So we’d pick out a new silky fabric (my favorite one that I remember had a green background and panda bears playing with balls all over it) and voila, I’d get a new blanket right about the time the tattered old one mysteriously disappeared.
I have also always been a bit of a princess and the pea sleeper – sensitive to the texture and weight and colors of bedding. Which isn’t to say I can’t sleep on rough bedding, but I’d rather not. I really do appreciate a soft percale or time-worn cotton sheets. When I went to college, I bought a comforter from JC Penney: light blue on one side, navy on the other. It was just the right softness and heft. 20+ years later that blanket is still kicking around my house somewhere, albeit in a very flat state.
As an adult, I have a nostalgic appreciation for blankets, particularly the personalized, well-loved varieties. When my sister (we call her Pilly) started quilting, I thought I might try that, too. But I was too casual about measuring and piecing and my mistakes magnified exponentially over the course of large projects until they looked like reflections in a funhouse mirror. So I started sewing birds and smaller projects using vintage fabrics and found much satisfaction there.
One year Pilly gave me a most amazing gift: a vintage quilt top that she had rescued from a thrift store and finished and bound. It was silky soft cotton, featured beautiful bright vintage fabrics, and was obviously a labor of love. When she confessed she had “merely” finished someone else’s handiwork, I loved it even more. Unfinished craft projects at thrift stores had always made me sad because I assumed the creator had given up after a lot of work, or worse, passed away. Finishing unfinished quilts hits all sorts of sweet spots for me: it saves me the most challenging work, it recycles existing goods, it finds a good home for someone’s hours of labor, and the end product is one of my favorite things…a blanket!
This is also a good use for my superpower (thrifting) and one of my compulsions: finding homes for things. Finishing vintage quilts lets me have them at reasonable prices…I’ve found plenty of gorgeous quilts but they are usually priced at least $175 and up (with good reason — so much work!). I can get a beautiful unfinished quilt top for $20 or so. So that’s my new hobby. I recently finished my first repurposed quilt for a dear friend. I had so much fun picking out the colors and patterns for sashing. The time I spend putting together a quilt is almost like spending time with the person it’s for.
I occasionally come across a real steal of a finished vintage quilt, too. Here’s an adorable vintage baby quilt that I found for $2.42 at a thrift.
One of my favorite thrifting finds ever is this enormous crazy quilt – it covers a queen-sized bed.
The fabrics are all gorgeous and the colors are so vibrant and the thing is – hang on to your hats – entirely hand-sewn and quilted. It is an insane amount of work. And I paid $30 for it after careful consideration. I look back and laugh because I had to think twice about the purchase: $30 at Value World usually buys me a cart full of clothes! But I went ahead and “splurged” and am so happy for having done so every time I wrap myself up in it or see someone else in my family seek it out. (Even the dogs).